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diary of a fortnight 

Diving down in 

quest for Siberian 

Atlantis 

a personal and very inconsistent 

contribution to our Communist 

future 

written in Novosibirsk August 2006 

edited as raw material in Febuary 2012, Kiev 

Martin Kraemer Liehn 

ul. Saumjana 8-2 

UKR- 04111 Kiev 

Ukraine 

Tel., landline +38 044 449 07 01 

Email: Sibiriada@riseup.net 



"the diaries are precious... 

"Will I again travel eastwards just to 

find myself end up with 

even more questions than before, not 

even enabled to think about answers 

to be honest? How long can this go 

on?" 

but I didn't notice too much 

"seksualnoi otkrovennosti", just have 



slightly better understanding of your 
biography. . . " 

Shirley from Minsk/Istanbul, giving me the 

first readers' response I ever got about it 

yet (April 2011) 

(thanks Shirley for two good clues about 

understanding Russian language better and 

improving this text, their effect is marked in 

the text respectively) 



These notes are in some sense the raw sketch 

for 



http://lccn.loc.gov/2008503857 

Type of Material: Book 
Kraemer Liehn, Martin. 
Main Title: Siberian diary/ Martin Kraemer Liehn. 
Published/Created: Warszawa : Instytut Wydawniczy kip, 2008. 

Description: 47 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. 
ISBN: 8388353942 



Copyriot at: 

http://www.archive.org/details/SiberianDiary 



1. resting under beats of lightening and 

thunder 

2. turning a day-train into a proletarian 

hotel 

3. steps into Asia 

4. raspberries and more plavciki 

5. Omsk sisters on holiday 

6. taking an expectable nip of aloofness 

at Akademgorodok 

7. Novosibirsk refurbishment 

8. affluent gardens at the sources of 

river Ob 

9. a night of compulsory adoration 

10. Asian mountains - Asian rivers 

11. Ezen - Privet 

12. harvesting stones and taking them home 

13. immensely agitated water slowing down 

14. two words of German 

15. reversing into running ice 

16. birch- trees of Siberian Bahamas 

17. Honey, Honey, and another night awake 

18. cold, wide rivers 

19. rebels ready for the countryside? 

20. a theory of progress reconstructed 

21. advancing within a collective of 

brilliant practice 

22. swimming off in more than tears 

23. rebeginning in Barnaul: fresco, 

Francesco, Ionesco 

24. hitch-hiking into most unexpected 

gardening 

25. dictatorship of the proletariat vs. a 

collage of abilities 

26. sketches for a commune 



1. resting under beats of lightening 

and thunder 

Novosibirsk is humming into a cold morning, end of 
August. I gaze at its concrete immensities from the 
windows of a painter's workshop, half a dozen stories 
above ground. My spacious shelter lays left hand of the 
river Ob, dragging north with immense loads of water from 
the rainy days behind us. Some Africans, I have been told, 
would actually say "before us" because the immediate past 
is sensually so much more present and convincing than our 
pale projective expectations we call future and pretend to 
be "before us". In some African languages, the future is 
actually spatially behind you. I reckon this to be indeed very 
adequate. In our consciousness, we really do face the 
immediate past while having future hopefully backing us up, 
behind us, yet potentially so uncanny, so deceptive, so 
unknowable. 

There is a sensually pulsing past in my body, though, and 
stripped free of all remainders of bourgeois idealism, with 
the conviction of a materialist convict to my body only, I 
know that any key to any future is just in here. Really? You 
pretend that there is a revolutionary future, something 
different from selfish Capitalist consumerism? And you 
pretend that it is actually included (with the help of a sly 
dialectical transformation) right intrinsically of the sensual 
fulfillment your body has known from the past weeks? 
Kidding? Just behind this unshaven, sun-burnt face with all 
its rat-like senses so terribly awake and fond of life that I 
would feel slightly uneasy if I myself were the future and 
obliged to host him? Fortunately, I can say, it is the other 
way round(<:. 



Strokes of lightening and thunder go down on the 
indifferent townscape of concrete and its distant noise of 
cars. Socialist urbanism knew how to keep cars out of living 
and working areas. Though half a mile away, I can feel the 
metropolitan underground pass in the breaks of thunder. I 
can tell by a slighdy different, more delicate vibration in the 
concrete continuum connecting every human being to each 
other in this one and only Siberian metropolis. 

Cold rain, cold wind comes upon the town from vast plains 
in the North. The water going down the Ob now will 
probably not make it any more to the icy ocean far up in 
the polar night this year. It will be caught by frosty chills 
with temperatures hostile to any kind of flow and life, 
nights which look like the end of the world when seen once 
from their Siberian insides. 

"The Russian situation is ready for anti-Capitalist guerrilla 
warfare", said my friend V. yesterday morning. 
"But our countryside is different from the Columbian 
battle-ground. A Russian winter kills you when you have no 
house. And Russians who do have a house are capable of 
denouncing you right away to the state killers." 
"1943, Germans lost against partisan warfare because of its 
civil support in Russia," I recalled from my history text- 
books. 

"That is the cinema version of history" my friend explained. 
"When we were trained for guerrilla warfare in the late 
Soviet union one of our primary lessons was 
'avoid to get into contact with this population'." 
I could not help to admit that this would be exactly the 
opposite of what is really necessary for a revolutionary 
situation. After some time, it seemed to me that I had 



understood comrade V. better. The question of armed 
struggle against Capitalism, the choice of arms in general, is 
a side issue. The essential step for the left is to form 
partisan units, quit the vague contingency of bourgeois 
careers and left militancy. To my mind, the arms to be 
taken, the methods to be chosen should allow maximum 
contact and interference. With the confidence of the 19' 
century Narodniki, I know that this global population, 
avoided by Soviet defence strategies, deprived of the 
control of any means of production and progress, merits a 
life choice. That is why at the end of this diary, I try to 
sketch the concept of a commune for militant investigation 
and scientifically reflected intervention, not the other way 
round. 

Blows of thunder and lightening go down on the concrete 
loneliness of a Monday morning, which left me terribly 
privileged in an artist's studio with 8, 80 or 800 free weeks 
ahead, 20 metres above ground. Another stroke goes down, 
another blow of cold wind and rain bursts through the 
windows onto my open senses, so furiously alive with joy 
and creative expectation. If this is the end of summer, this 
year, this life, I will not complain. I am ready to harvest. Let 
us see what. 



2. turning a day- train into a 
proletarian hotel 

1 5 precious years have gone down the drain and the Soviet 
experience is still more than a set of scattered fragments to 
be recovered by archaeology. Sitting in a collective sleeping 
wagon of a train gaining the first heights of the Ural, I 
remembered the August days 1991 in the working-class 



backwaters of Paris. I had run free from school, ceased to 
be a teen, learnt to keep a garden and eventually to defend 
a road block of burning cars in the student demonstrations 
of the French capital. And as if this was not enough to 
burden a summer, I had chosen to be fatally in love with a 
comrade from East Germany. On that August morning 
1991, when news broke that Moscow is ready for anything, 
I rode far on a borrowed French bike to get hold of 
"L'humanite", not waking up my special guests. A whole 
group of East German students had made its way to my 
rural retreat in the Paris plain by bicycle themselves and 
was living at my workplace, tolerated by my French and 
African workmates with the help of little payments in our 
common black cash-box. Throughout the following days, I 
kept on translating to my Socialist guests the French articles 
on the Soviet Union from the one and only Communist 
newspaper available. Just imagine there was no internet at 
that time, only a funny French precursor called "minitel", 
logistically not able to support much more than French 
dating businesses, not to speak about independent media. 
My guests with their Socialist socialisation who found 
praising words even for the "Thaelmannknoepfe" on my 
work suit listened attentively. Instead of French, they had 
learned, what I could only dream of: Russian. There was a 
vague feeling among us that maybe everything returns to 
what we expected. Maybe, we hoped, Capitalism will not 
make the race in the end. And I even remember voices 
predicting that it was time to return to East Germany and 
join the deserted building site of Socialism. Some of my 
comrades had travelled to Mongolia and Kazakhstan before, 
served on the Western GDR border and exchanged shots 
with demoralised ex- Vietnam units of the US-Army. For 
them, returning to the GDR meant returning to the East in 
general, a giant collective full of contradictions but worth 



fighting for. All of them had been thinking like that at some 
point of time, no timely opportunism could conceal that. 
Socialist loyalties, we thought to feel, might be in force 
again soon. In fact, we were fatally mistaken and our 
illusionary forces paid heavily for this. 

The thrill of the initial change soon gave way to broad 
disillusionment when El'cin (Yeltsin) putsches his way to 
supreme command. Only some days later, I met the chief 
editor of the Pravda in Paris, literally reduced to the 
modesty of a 19' century Russian Emigre. He had fled the 
white take-over of Moscow and used his invitation to the 
"fete de l'humanite" in Paris to escape the crack-down. His 
newspaper was closed and delegalised, the Communist 
party forcefully dismantled and a dictatorship installed in 
Moscow with nothing but Western sponsors, Tsarist 
sentimentalities and a offensive primitivism of crude pro- 
capitalist Adam Smithian neo-liberal theory that made few 
of us laugh. Speaking with the refuge from Moscow, a man 
made sensitive and sensible by the disaster of the preceding 
two weeks, I suddenly and quite inexplicably took to a 
fancy in this Soviet Union, now that it had made its claim 
on exclusive working-class representation history. How 
fatal, such fancy to set in exactly when its material base gets 
physically dismantled, taken over by the enemy, ridiculed 
and distorted by their propaganda! In how far does such 
caprice of affection betray a certain deliberate distance to 
reality, a dash of voluntarism opposed to materialist 
wisdom and politically effective strategy against Capitalism? 
I cannot tell. I know that I had a certain conscience about 
this ontological problematic already in 1991. In how far can 
we pin-point our visions to the past? Is that not the mode 
of reflection characterising positivism, our bourgeois class 
enemy? What has the Jacobinist fervour of the 19 century, 



8 



what has the love for the Paris Commune in the 20' 
century really contributed to revolutionary progress? 15 
years ago, I took two steps out and into this dilemma which 
were almost ridiculously juxtaposed. I became member of 
the French Communist party. And, I remember this from 
the first meetings and exchanges with my new party cell, I 
resolved to travel... eastward. Precisely 15 years after this 
fatal August when Capitalism triumphed globally and 
succeeded in adding a new and formerly unknown sense of 
bitterness to our lives, I find myself still travelling eastward 
with love's labour lost. Has a youth frustration turned into 
a life obsession? Do I actually get closer to the social 
explosives of collective potentials which countless of my 
dreams and quests have localised East, behind the East- 
German border, in East German student homes, in East 
Polish villages, in the Rumanian Carpathians, in the Polish 
capital, in Prague, in Byelorussia, in the Ukraine, in 
European Russia and now finally behind the Ural mountain 
range? Those dreams boasted of sly technical rationality, 
humane industrial benefit, evenly distributed by efficient 
railways. Such dreams were colonising vast landscapes of 
my mind. They were actively taking refuge in things I got to 
know about the history of Soviet cultural vanguards, Soviet 
Communes, worker biographies, founders of Soviet power. 
Sincerely speaking, this is counter-realist to the extreme. 
Present Russia and all of its periphery in its wake has been 
strategically decomposed, forcefully irrationalised and as it 
seems irretrievably deindustrialised at a speed and scale 
hardly ever recorded in human history. Will I again travel 
eastwards just to find myself end up with even more 
questions than before, not even enabled to think about 
answers to be honest? How long can this go on? 



After passing giant river beds behind Perm our train was 
gaining height among the endless green wooden slopes of 
the southern Ural ranges. Passengers were getting more 
familiar, more provincial and conversation easier. It was 
enough to say that I had travelled from Moscow to arouse 
frank astonishment. "So you have come such a long way 
(32 hours, Vladivostok is more than 120) just to be here in 
our forlorn little mountains," people asked. Later there 
might have been a shy question like "But you are a 
foreigner anyway, aren't you." I have learnt to silence such 
doubt with a vague geographical reference. "I am from the 
Baltic sea", I would respond slyly. Nobody in Russia would 
at first glance understand this to mean actually anything 
outside the former Soviet Union. Citizens former the 
former Baltic Republic are not actually Russian in the 
cultural sense of the word "Rusky", but they are still "ours" 
in a very comprehensive understanding. 

I put my finger on the ail-Russian railway map comprising 
two continents and decided to get off where it had landed. 
I had a special pleasure to slow down getting my luggage 
ready on the platform — in the train door, a group of 
commuting clerks returning home had taken the fancy to 
flirt with me so that I would get on the train again and 
make it "at least to the next little town" with them, for 
"here, there is nothing". I understood that their flirting was 
inspired by the boredom of a long trip much more than by 
their acquaintance with me. Consequently, my counter- 
proposal to spend the forthcoming week-end together 
walking through rural rain did not encounter quite anything 
worthwhile to be called enthusiasm. With a smiling and a 
mournful eye, I finally took to this delightful prospect on 
my own, searching the next footpath from the platform to 
the vast adjacent riverbed, when a firm female voice woke 



10 



me up with a series of funny questions and proposals. She 
was standing among a vast heap of bags and sacks, carefully 
watched over by a big man in military suit. I would not 
know what this military clothes meant, I could not tell 
where this woman took her splendid vitality from under the 
constant late summer rain. But I grasped, that I was just 
meeting a folk, previously unknown to me — plavciki, 
rafters. They wait entire days for trains. They transgress 
wide stretches of Siberia, carry their Soviet boats, their 
soviet team spirit and their liquid spirit to the outmost out- 
back, just to have a ride down untamed rivers. In the 
following weeks I meet plavciki-families, plavciki- summer- 
communes, plavciki-invitations, plavciki-hospitality, 
plavciki- snobism and finally and most sadly a plavciki- 
widow. Actually after travelling the European parts of this 
country during the last 7 years, I was not quite prepared any 
more to see Russians publicly doing anything different 
from grabbing small occasions for making money or 
accumulating streamlined commercial prestige or 
merchants or "otdachnut' (breath out)" in most petty- 
bourgeois senses of the polyvalent word. I was being 
arrogant, because I had no clue about rafting. Rafting takes 
you out of the ritualised misery of Russian commercial life. 
Rivers flow for free for the time being. Rafting throws you 
on your own physical forces, your own physical senses and 
the power of collectives helping each other, spending the 
river nights with their guitars and laughing about 
mosquitoes, lack of food and summer colds. But rafting 
also probes the limits of escapism. It provokes the Russian 
macho-stereotype and its military socialisation to flourish, 
unfortunately not only in women whom it happens to do 
incredibly good for a change. Men drink, men get drunk, 
men get into wild water, men drown. Very simple plot, 
though, it happens hundred of times every season. To be 



11 



fair, some die because there are crazy waters in the Siberian 
out-back. Accidents happen even without alcohol. 
Exceptions can prove a rule. 

Despite everything, there is something hilariously beautiful 
in the rationality of formerly Socialist tourism. I remember 
to be caught by the thrill of non-commodity based 
excursionism in 1994 when my Rumanian uncle announced 
that with his wife having disappeared, we could now take 
the kitchen into self-management and eat "tourist- style". 
He meant functional modesty, the end of laborious urban 
conventions, butterless sandwiches to put it in a nutshell. A 
Westerner would quite probably understand just the 
opposite. Tourism after life-long Capitalism is rather a 
merchant to show off. Eat "tourist-style" would rather 
point at some pumped up cheap exoticisms like pizza, 
"Indian" or "Chinese" food. 

Plavciki are folks of quite another planet. Some even 
manage to avoid road transport up the rivers at all, they do 
it all with cheap trains, spacious enough for their solid 
Soviet hardware. There is actually hardly any sleeping 
infrastructure in place for plavciki, they sleep on river- 
beaches and railway stations just as the water and the trains 
happen to carry them. 

Once I had heard the voice of that first plavcik woman to 
step into my senses, I was quite convinced to follow her 
wherever she was up to. There was such an 
uncompromising playful ease in her jokes and observations. 
It took me some time to understand where she took it from 
— she was actually returning with her folks to Perm after 
weeks of wild and austere life on the waters. And then she 
would whisper the formula for happiness into my ear and it 



12 



went "Kyn-Zavod". Behind some bushes, she made me 
understand, another train was waiting which I had not 
noticed before. Now it was high time for it to depart. Its 
final destination being nothing else but "Kyn", I looked 
into her eyes. She nodded. So, I took my legs into my 
hands and my luggage between my teeth to run for my life 
and the promise of happiness and catch the departing train. 
Behind me sounded a laugh which had become all too 
familiar within those last 9 minutes on the forlorn rural 
platform. Still days later, I would hear her laughing, it went 
through my head and breast like the most beautiful 
invitation to Asia I have ever been offered, even when it 
had already dawned to my mind after some incredibly 
restless days and nights that at least this year "Kyn-Zavod" 
would never be reached by me. But that is another story, 
the one of chapter 3. 

I was in a strange fit of humour in this train to the middle 
of nowhere promising "Kyn-Zavod". An excursion of 
youngsters was sitting around me with one boy bursting 
out into hysterical laughter every now and then. Gils not 
older than 12 would flirt around him and make him 
physically explode with shyness and pretended strength. 
This was actually pathetic to look at. Here sat I, three times 
older than him and the only faculty helping me more than 
him was to direct those spasms of unfulfilled love into 
myself so that they would not burst out so disagreeably. 
There was another boy sitting diagonally, astonishing sad- 
looking, maybe two times older than the young helpless 
annoyance. Through my commiseration, I would actually 
consider to shut the young one up. But the elder one took 
up the task and asked offensively what these laughers were 
about. So I could take to moderating and suggested that 
our young colleague was probably in love and did not know 



13 



what this meant. "So what", the elder boy retorted still 
offensively, "come on, you are even some 12 years or so of 
age." The young one nodded ashamed. "With 12 he 
practically knows everything about love already, doesn't he? 
So why is he laughing so stupidly all the time?" The 
younger one agreed that indeed practically he knew 
everything already. And I just wanted to turn the scene into 
something more pedagogically instructive and ask for 
example about the use of condoms in different generations 
of Russian youth. But the agenda was in the sad one's 
hands now. "What do you think?" he asked me. Why me? I 
decided to do something very unRussian and tell him 
everything I actually managed to grasp of my thoughts in 
that moment: "For the last half hour I have been thinking 
that you look quite unhappy." "Is that what you were 
thinking about?" he asked back as if seeking reassurance. I 
said yes. Without pathetic gestures or words, he then 
virtually stepped out of his cool and tight demeanour as if 
out of a cold shower. I looked at him with new eyes. 
Suddenly, he had begun to burn with interest. How can you 
talk like that? It is not what you would normally talk in our 
trains. We spent the rest of the trip looking at paintings, 
commenting only them. On the one hand it was as if 
enough sincere sentences had been said and everybody was 
musing on their impact. On the other hand, we knew that if 
there was need to say more, nobody would have any 
reserve to say what came to his mind. 
Leaving the train, the two parted as if they were my friends. 

Arriving at the station of Kyn, I was all awake with delight. 
There was such a clear evening breeze of mountain air 
going through the heights of fir trees and between the 
wooden huts, an air of calmness and chilly summer idleness 
set in on our minds and conversations. I had strong 



14 



memories of early childhood. When I was 4 years old, my 
father lost his work and we made a step familiar to most 
Russians, but quite a horror to me nowadays in my 
situation for example. We moved out of town to a village in 
the northern mountains to live with my grand-parents. The 
clear mountainous air, the high fir-trees, the change from 
rumour to quietness and the long, long trip were physically 
so alike on my senses that I was hit with wonder. The 
world around me was entering through such paths into my 
consciousness which were already familiar to me. Still, what 
made me almost cry with surprise: these paths had not been 
in use for 3 decades! Suddenly, I remembered what we had 
been eating on an early summer day in 1976, my sister and 
me. I remembered how I drew with my sister on a big 
white board with sharp pencils. Today I would tell from my 
sensual memory that the pencils were HB, but I could be 
mistaken by some degrees. Including my whole childish 
body in the game, I lost a brow from my eye and 
subsequently drew a burial site for it on the board. The 
pencil line was quite alike the line of the bending dead eye- 
brow. The sun was shining brightly on the board, it hurt in 
my eyes. Contrasts were as sharp as the clear air. This was 
not the familiar place. This was something new. For my 
grand-parents this was home. One evening they were sitting 
all silent. They both watched a flower, a blue flower. This 
flower had a meaning in their lives I could not know. It was 
connected with a political prison sentence, three years in jail 
in the leaden times of the 1950s. I did not know that it was 
possible to sit silent for, well, for hours as it seemed. I 
started crying, my sister was living far away then. 

The important observation I could make from these 
memories of more than 30 years ago besieging all my 
senses now was how important it was for me to do things 



15 



in accordance with my elder sister, even travelling. A year 
earlier than painting the white board, we had taught 
ourselves to paint grass with different colours of green and 
different movements of our hands. Writing first single 
letters, listening to blackbirds in spring, speaking about the 
war which will be, all this was a collective exploration. 
When we were still living in the town of Stuttgart, my sister 
and I saw war-planes over Lebanon on black-and-white 
television and we were very afraid. I clearly remember two 
war-planes on the screen. We felt close to the end. It took 
our parents some effort to calm us. They said that Lebanon 
is far away and that the war will not yet come to us 
tomorrow. A third of a century later, we see similar pictures 
from the same places. My understanding of the war has not 
progressed or changed so much from the one I had 
developed then with my sister. Just some more specific 
arguments joined the line of associations. (We did not really 
believe our parents and their calm, their talk about "far 
away" still meant that there was war). My feelings even do 
not seem to have changed at all. How strange! Maybe my 
memory is prey to determinist manipulation. 

I write about my sister attempting to characterise the self- 
assurance with which I lobbied myself to sleep with the 
conductresses of our little train. Having no place to pass 
the night under a roof in the little settlement, the female 
collective had long ago taken to heating up one wagon and 
sleeping there together. The atmosphere of erotic tension 
came later, came and went without changing our relation of 
trust. Our evening began with quite a work-load. We 
cleaned the wagons. After all my idle travelling, I had 
incredible sensual pleasure to wipe the floors of the 
Platskartny common sleeping wagons. I sang and danced 
doing the work. The floor of these wagons is actually very 



16 



detailed and complicated, with 10 niches for 6 to maximum 
9 sleepers each. There seems to be a Russian system of a 
small steel bar constructions holding your wiping cloth. For 
larger surfaces, the width of the tool would be ineffectively 
small but in a railway wagon it is perfectly adapted to all the 
holes and tiny niches which need cleaning. It was 
interesting for me to learn that every desk, even the luggage 
places are being wiped after a day's journey. There is a 
complicated system of using clean, dirty, dirtier and 
disposing of dirties water. An incredible mass of objects 
and garbage can be dragged out of each wagon. The 
heating oven, not the toilet as I thought, is the central 
operational unit for all domestic tasks, disposing of garbage, 
waste-water, collecting bottles which can earn some money 
for returning them, drying and storing the cleaning 
instruments. After a long evening, we had great pleasure to 
sit by the open samovar. The fire was lighting our table and 
the faces, I began to draw. Outside, a big industrial saw was 
working throughout the night. "They work in three shifts", 
the conductresses assured me. They spoke with a very 
familiar tone about fellow workers of different trades. In 
European Russia, wood does often not even get basic 
processing. Most of the harvest is transported to Finland as 
raw material and returns to Russian consumers as 
processed boards with Western prices. We started to talk 
about the railway trade union and their wages, about AIDS 
and condoms, about technical possibilities to sabotage 
trains on the Transsib connection in case of need, say for a 
revolutionary situation. We discussed about gender roles 
and personal relations with male machinists on the train 
who slept in a separate place though one conductress had 
been heavily flirting with one machinist assistant that 
evening. 



17 



The female director of the wooden railway station of Kyn 
had an interesting conversation with my landladies. She said, 
she would put me up in the train station which was 
officially closed over night, but it was too cold there to 
have a nice sleep. The conductresses retorted "But when 
we molest him sexually in the night he will then speak badly 
about us Russian folk." I asked if their hospitability could 
be a problem in a control and they assured me that they do 
have a very tight control on any controller sent to them. So 
I was confident to stay. Everybody had a good laugh at my 
poor efforts to portrait them. With singing and playing 
tunes on the recorder flute the night progressed swiftly. 
There was some interest in my had-sawn trousers and the 
pretext was good enough to finger-test some of its sewing 
details not omitting all the flesh and bones within them. In 
consequence, the collective resumed that having to get up 
for work so early in the morning there was no use to 
engage in any love-making any more. So we slept quietly 
and warmly until early morning duty woke up the more 
mobile part of the collective. Others lay on their desks and 
made up poetry like "Oh, how I love to sleep in the 
morning. Martin, why did you not visit us a bit at night?" 
and so on. 

Secretly, I marvelled at the sovereign mode of socialising 
and dealing with sexuality the proletarian collective had put 
me up with. It was quite different from the middle class 
neuroses, I have got used to encounter and I still do 
encounter in myself. Somehow, I was quite confident that 
there were less unwanted pregnancies with such a 
proletarian and factual sexual socialisation, than in the 
painful bourgeois relations, I have witnessed and created 
myself. As to pregnancies, in our train it was just good for a 
general laugh to find out that with 35 years of age, I have 



18 



not even been able to coax anybody into a wanted 
pregnancy, forget about boasting of unwanted ones. 

Anyway, there was no reason for me to talk badly about the 
Russian working folk, even if their interests had been 
slightly less poetic and somehow more factual. 

There are precious examples of self-determined sexuality in 
female working-class collectives. Florian and Znaniecki 
collected life-stories of Polish peasants migrating to pre- 
World War I Prussia for seasonal work. The Prussian 
latifundistas organised special trains to direct the stream of 
migrant labour to their benefits. Other than the trains for 
bourgeois clientele, these poor people trains run and stood 
waiting for days and nights on end. The two early 
sociologists happened to come across records of female 
collectives quite deliberately making use of male 
companions for their own sexual notions of pleasure and 
desire during the trip. They were not only sovereignly 
distributing sexual partners among them, but organising the 
use of the wagon space according to their collective female 
interests and their specific notion of smaller group intimacy. 
Comparing this account with e.g. the portrait of female 
migrant worker sexuality given by George Orwell, e.g. in 
his "pot-boiler" (that's his own words) "A clergyman's 
daughter", he appears to have quite missed the point. (He is 
a bloody macho anyway, the opposition in "1984" is 
betrayed by a woman, his own wife doing more serious 
political work in revolutionary Spain than himself is a 
persona non-grata in the action of "A homage to 
Catalonia", "Coming up for air" searches for revolutionary 
class coalitions to the detriment of 'the female race', "Keep 
the aspidistra flying" glorifies sex which is unpleasant for a 
woman as family-founding, "The road to Wigham Peer" 



19 



chants the tune of good old working-class patriarchy. 
Similarly in 1920, Florian and Znaniecki published their 
source on female sexual agency in their American edition 
under a strict commentary evoking something like the 
"absolute moral degradation of some fractions of the 
migrating workforce". More individualised sexual relations, 
e.g. between a male Polish migrant and a married bourgeois 
German landlady were not commented this way. Maybe the 
main reason for moral indignation by the male researchers 
was actually not free sexuality in general but more specific 
female working-class sovereignty in sexual affairs. In the 
Polish edition of 1974 the passage seems to be suppressed 
altogether. 

In a broader sense, the first female working-class collectives 
earning their own money in the rice-paddies of Northern 
Italy have left some instructive tales on new discoveries 
about making love in the "canzone delle Mondine". 
Bourgeois Petrograd women's rights activists published 
alarming notices on the sexual agency of Ukrainian migrant 
woman working on Crimean tobacco plantations. They 
were economically forced to produce the dope for men 
dying on the battlefields of World War I. Why is their 
unconventional freedom of sexual choices generalisingly 
discredited as "prostitution" by their Petrograd class rivals? 
(This observation is the fruit of a week of study by my 
comrade Vlasta in Moscow archives while the sun was 
rather inviting to have a swim, thank you for sharing the 
information). 

Analytically, I reckon it to be not too difficult to draw a 
dividing line between promiscuity and genuine sexual 
liberation. In practice, one of the most prominent 
indicators of genuine sexual liberation seems to be that 



20 



though nothing is prohibited, there is actually no stress on 
making love to the detriment of other forms of social 
intercourse. And for this reason it might actually never take 
place, so what? This is a real problem only for Catholic 
population ideologists. They together with the 
pornographic industry are the one and only obsessed with 
sex, for they have instrumentalised it without reserves. This 
is the secret message of our last book Kalinka. I guess that 
some 90% of the people receiving it this summer and not 
reading carefully enough understood our cause just the 
other way round. Now, they might think of us editors as a 
bunch of strange missionaries. Just as that pathetic Polish 
director of a railway restaurant car on our way to the 
Athens social forum. When he saw the Kalinka cover page 
on sexuality and anti-capitalism he positively thought this 
enough a motive to call an ambulant police unit into the 
train and get the foreign parasites out. Luckily, our 
comrades working on the Russian railways have a slightly 
more progressive socialisation in this respect. 28 more years 
of historical socialism (sorry folks, this is a complicated one: 
from 1917 until 1944 and 1989 until 1991 minus the year 
1920) do seem to make a difference, even if it is 15 to 79 
years back in time. 



3. steps into Asia 

Any reader who has some sense of what goes on in Russia 
will positively marvel how on earth I do get only the 
chocolate side of the disaster. To be honest, I have not told 
about the other side yet. Strindberg, Munch, Brecht and 
Seghers have taken great pains to recreate artistically how 
much people can hate you for having made love to them 



21 



and not really meant it. But who has documented the 
consequences you face for not making love and meaning it? 
One ticket collector on the train gave way to all her doubts 
on my character and thus painted a vivid portrait of 
Russian conservatism in action. "You told us, you will not 
only dance on our tables but also start to cry when we fill 
you up with coffee. That means that you are a weak one, 
you cry. I have heard that artists' natures tend to be weak, 
degenerated somehow. And you put on your t-shirt the 
other way round. Your shoes do not look proper either. 
Why have you wiped the floors yesterday? You are a 
Cinderella type. Not a strong one. Maybe you are gay 
altogether. You should be going by car. You are a looser if 
you take the train. Anyway what do you look for in this 
country bumpkin hole? If you were serious, you would be 
in Moscow now. Why did you ask us about sabotage on 
trains? You might be a terrorist. Anyway, you are a 
travelling type. That's the sort which contracts AIDS first. 
How disgusting to sleep with such a person, even if you use 
a condom. That's not what I love. Your painting stuff is a 
failure altogether. You have been drawing us for hours and 
there is not a single resemblance. Why did you not give me 
my portrait as a memory? There were addresses written on 
the back side of the pages? I understand now: the address 
of your girl-friend. Maybe you are even married. Take your 
luggage now. Don't stand in my way. There are some 
people who work, however. Our train is to leave in half a 
minute. What do you say? I get a copy of your sketches, 
also the one when I posed for you on the bench? You do 
not believe yourself. You will forget about me as soon as 
our train goes off. But if you come, I will quit smoking and 
we buy a little stretch of land in the mountains and we will 
raise our own potatoes and my two children and we will 
be. . ." The train went off. I would not bet my head. But the 



22 



last word might have been "happy". I took my luggage as I 
had been told. It was quite heavy. I noticed that at least. I 
walked off into the direction I was vaguely instructed to 
bring me to Kyn-Zavod after some 15 kilometres. Quite 
close for the Ural mountains. For a moment I paused and 
considered to buy some food, but it would have been 
several hours for any village shop to open. In my mind 
Moscow and local time collided unadvantagously. I took 
the first opportunity to leave the track I had been told to 
take. First, heading to the left, I then turned to the right, 
two more times to the left and then I followed some paths 
deeper and deeper into the hilly woodlands until standing 
before a bush of raspberries and realising: "Dear colleague, 
you are physically, morally and politically destitute. You 
have nowhere to go. You do not even know what you look 
for in these damned forests plundered of their saleable 
hardware. Your luggage is heavy like hell. Your talk is 
empty. Your feelings are useless. Your Russian is evidently 
unconvincing. Your questions on trade-unionist 
perspectives have been insufficient. You haven't even had 
the guts to talk about whom they would surely have called 
your girl-friend. You should have painted portraits in oil on 
canvas and not with pencil on address books. You should 
have asked them more about sexuality and fulfilment, 
concepts of happiness, education of children. Once in 5 
years you have such a free discussion and all you seem to 
be worried about in that moment is that there is only two 
condoms in your pocket, they have been there for weeks 
now in critical vicinity to the sewing needle and it's not 
even you who bought them, that your underwear could 
hardly be in a presentable state any more and your 
toothbrush had got lost two night-trains earlier." All the 
while, I was eating raspberries, sweet red dots of delight on 
the black seas of my miseries. After having eaten more than 



23 



a kilo or so and swallowed additional loads of self-hatred 
alongside, I decided the following. "You have not really 
slept well this night. You should try to find something 
different to eat than raspberries the next days. You should 
better not get lost in these forests. You should rather not 
sleep in the open air. Already the days are terribly chilly up 
here and the nights will be hell. By the way, better you will 
never write or tell about this last night, really about these 
trains altogether. Funny, trains have been for the Russian 
revolution what ships have been for the commercial 
revolution. And individual motor traffic for capitalist 
restoration. What is the flagship of feudalism? A horse, well. 
Would not mind a horse now. My German friend Carsten, 
whom I have invited to go to China with me said he would 
be more selective and just take the horseback experience on 
the tracking part Kazakhstan-China. And the slave society? 
What is their trains? Individual hand carriers. See how 
Capitalism longs to restore slave relations. Under every car 
a bunch of welders is tight to weld above their heads, 8 
hours a night shift, 6 nights a week. And you collapse after 
a single night in proletarian workmates' company. By the 
way, why is Marxist history writing always so schematic? At 
times it even gets worse than the Agitprop train-slave car 
story you made up some raspberries ago. Dialectically 
materialist history should be the best writing in the world 
and all you manage to read of it appears just dry stuff. To 
be honest, the worst things you have probably ever read is 
your own stuff. What a good luck for them that people are 
generally reluctant to read anything of it. In 1986, 1 
overheard a very nice conversation in an Australian school 
library. 'I have done a homework on German history.' One 
started. 'Should have been 10 pages, t'techer said. Fuck it, I 
did it on half a page. Actully, German history is an easy one. 
Germany was not a bad country when there was still 



24 



Charles the great, you know. The trouble started when his 
sons divided it in two. See now, today, you have East 
Germany and you have West Germany. That's bloody hell. 
More than thousand years, just because of these two 
brothers'. 'I always wonder' the other responded without 
responding, 'how do these dicks actually write those books? 
As for me, I have even trouble reading books. Well, I read 
the spelling dictionary once. Honestly, in half a night I 
came to the word 'Absalom'. Don't laugh that was a hell of 
a lot of reading. The problem about writing books. Well, I 
could probably write some hundred pages. You can just 
copy from other books, I have heart. The real horror is that 
they always cross out two thirds of what you write because 
it is bull- shit.' 

These two Australian boys seem to have become the two 
guiding stars of your pathetic attempts at saying somehow 
something important after 28 years of study. The first one 
stands for your historical research, the second one for your 
writing altogether. Painting, writing, fighting, you are only 
making a fool of yourself, while your former friends raise 
children, pay into pension funds and edit clever articles in 
revolutionary journals." Strangely enough, sometimes, I 
chance to have quite a lot of ideas. At other times however, 
one and a half ideas torment me for a whole day and 
nothing else turns up. Well, to be honest, two mushrooms 
turned up. I know now, that I should better not have eaten 
them. They seemed to fulfil at least one of my resolutions: 
to eat something different from raspberries in the end, 
while a proper place to spend the night seemed further 
away than anything I could reach by foot. And there was 
nothing than my feet to give me a lift. I strolled along rivers, 
then started to cross them. First I kept to mountains, than I 
tried to follow valleys. I am not really ignorant for things 



25 



like south, north, the position of the sun at different times 
of the day, polar star, proper shoe work, changing socks 
and keeping track record. But this day and the following 
ones, everything failed. There was not a living soul turning 
up and my last strategy to walk in the direction of faint dog 
barking which I imagined to hear behind the horizon also 
seemed to somehow miss the point. To cut a long story 
short, I had got lost. Later I learned that I had got to Asia 
that way. But even that would have been of little 
consolation in the nights I then had still before me. 



4. raspberries and more plavciki 

There did turn up a trail of a car through the wilderness 
when I was restlessly wandering through one of those 
nights trying to control the shivering of my body from frost, 
malnourishment and dissatisfaction with stern walking 
movements. I was not in a position to be snobbish about 
cars any more, to be honest. I clung to this path as to an 
anonymous love letter. Pulling together all my remaining 
wits, I managed to analyse the following. A car trail has two 
directions. If you follow one direction to the end, you 
arrive at a production plant. There will be workers and 
there will be something to eat around. On the other side of 
the trail there will be a car cemetery. There will be some 
kind of human beings around even there or vultures and 
they as well will have things to eat they have left over, just 
as the corps of a car never really gets ripped off to the end. 
Then the doubts set it. Maybe this is a hermeneutic circle. 
We only notice cars which have not completely been taken 
apart. Those which have been taken apart to the last screw 
are not perceptible any more. It's likely to this bourgeois 
mourning of "Why is there no lively proletarian literature?" 



26 



If you would grant proletarian writers a room of their own 
and faculties to publish and interest audiences to read them, 
you might notice in the meantime that the chap does not 
really write to the benefit of your class interests. Your tastes 
will be insulted and your generosity will feel exploited. That 
is how you make proletarian voices disappear from your 
mind-set. I stood still and felt my nerves shake my body 
with horror. Maybe I have taken the dead direction of the 
car trail and it will end right away in one of those pittoresc 
deserted valleys which once have been kept and looked 
after by Kolkhozes. See, they as well have disappeared to 
the last screw. Only on their vast meadows, meadows of 
thousands of hectares an agronomist eye can see that the 
bushes and small trees are not much older than a decade 
and some plants flowering there still betray superb soil 
fertility, which is the result of women's and men's toil, 
socialist toil on such sour locations as these ones. I saw the 
car trail in the moonlight suddenly disappear. The car had 
stood there some weeks probably before the vultures had 
found its corpse. Then everything happened very quickly. 
The last fragment of metal was kicked into the nearby river, 
that was it. No, the trail continued. Maybe we had taken the 
other direction towards its birthplace. But hark. Do you 
really think there will be any factory any more? Maybe there 
is just ruins like in those places where Socialist industry had 
been producing for socialised needs and not for the sake of 
individualised grabbing. Take the Crimean peninsula for 
example. In a couple of years more, they will have taken 
down even the concrete ruins. You know, if you bang a 
steel hammer on concrete long enough, some metal pieces 
will eventually stick out. Getting some kilo of these to a 
metal shop, will at least assure you to be able to get drunk 
for the following hours, because they sell the metal to 
China where they build houses in kilometre dimensions. 



27 



There has been no El'cin in China, that has made a 
difference. What do you grunt? Tien Amen? Do you know 
the official number of demonstrators shot in Moscow in 
1993 when El'cin shelled the parliament, dismantled the 
informalist self-management of living areas, and ordered to 
shoot on any civil person approaching the butchery? 
Officially they killed close to a thousand victims during this 
"chirurgical strike (NATO type)". Unofficially, you can 
assume that Bejjing Tien Amen 1988 and Moscow White 
House 1993 are on quite a similar scale of brutality. That is 
for the military intervention. Capitalism however has a 
supreme capacity to deprive and kill with most civil 
instruments. Just note, that the average life expectancy of a 
Russian male citizen has dropped by 8 years in the last 15 
years, precisely speaking from the point in time when 
Gorbachev's campaign against alcoholism was called off. 
In the 1820s the free forces of the Capitalist world market 
could crack Chinese self-sufficiency only with the help of 
opium and the opium wars. It is true that you do not learn 
much useful details about German history in Australia. But 
at least you get a sensible introduction into Asian history. 
Want to hear it or not, in any Australian high school you 
learn that the British military operation to force China 
opening up to British Indian opium import cost 20 million 
lives. This was the epoch of the European Romantics. 
Europeans got very emotional on hearing about the cruel 
destiny Greek-Bavarian monarchists endured when getting 
some beating in Ottoman jails for their practices of 
criminal piracy. While opium has slipped out a bit of 
control in the Capitalist world market. Alcohol seems to be 
the perfect civil weapon in the Russian case. Just notice that 
female heavy drinking in the former Soviet Union is a 
specific phenomena to the happy few who have made their 
day, accumulated grants, gone through American 



28 



sponsored leadership seminars, communicate with their 
children through the meagre payroll of their nanny. Alcohol 
eats up the male part of Russian society from below with 
the assistance of ubiquitous gamble machines, risky sex and 
military manliness. Alcohol eats up the female part of 
Russian society from above with the assistance of 
systematic gender discrimination cemented to a genuinely 
racist system of assault, sexual aggression in literary all 
public spaces (not to speak about the private ones) and 
exclusive burdening with childcare as soon as a pregnancy 
is confirmed. To be successful in such a society you have to 
forget effectively. To industrialise your selective ignorance, 
there is no better fluid than alcohol at disposal. I hate all 
the racist talk about "mentality" and "tradition". Bullshit! 
Its bloody structural violence and alcoholism is the reaction, 
the last resort, the false friend — still a friend, where even 
friendship is out for grab. I once spent a night in a Pskov 
police station. I had been seriously beaten up for money. 
My left eye was bleeding. I would have genuinely 
appreciated my burglars to give me let's say 10 seconds to 
get off my glasses before beating into my head. But they 
would not take the trouble. After shaking hands with me 
amicably and moistening their fists with artisan calm and 
care in a greasy street pond of old Pskov, they would beat 
straight away into my face, into my glasses. One glas broke 
and tore a scratch right along my left eyelid. There were not 
many millimetres left to save my left eyesight, I was told 
later. That night, I felt safer in the police station than in the 
Russian public. Today, I know that my feeling was a dire 
illusion. There is no reason whatsoever to trust Russian 
police. They will assess your situation professionally and 
then, based on their knowledge of your resources, they will 
try to squeeze as much out of you as they can. However, 
during the whole night, there were women coming to the 



29 



police station. I have rarely seen such brutal traces of 
beating, rarely heard such panicking voices and desolate 
sobs as from my female fellow victims in the hands of the 
police that night. It was in that night, I had a first real 
insight into the scope and scale of Russian domestic 
violence. These women knew what they were risking in 
handing themselves over to the police. They went there 
nevertheless. There is a choice between Black Death and 
cholera which definitely lets you choose cholera. 

Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was damned right in tearing 
Strauss' musical falsification of an Alp morning into pieces. 
The main insult to our senses, he argued, is that the Strauss 
morning comes out triumphantly, as a proud piece of 
bourgeois commodity. Mornings never do come out 
triumphantly. The only form we know mornings to grey in 
our times ("grauen" the German word is synonym to 
"horrify") is with the ridiculously modest hope that only 
once it will not get darker any more. And that is the mode 
in which a Ural night turns to an end. There are seemingly 
endless hours of greying. No colours, faint black and white. 
If you have Moscow time in your senses you loose hope 
altogether. This is not the morning. This might be polar 
light or something the like, you think after three hours with 
the temperatures still dropping and dropping. Yet there is 
an end even to that. And there has been a happy end to the 
car trail as well. It lead to something like a trail eventually 
used in two directions, this lead to something like a way, 
this lead to something like street. Well, not a street. Raw 
concrete elements laid out in two long rows of kilometres 
and kilometres and kilometres to fit under a lorry. Cars 
have to improvise with the mud in-between. It took me 
half a day to be able to study the kind of travelling taking 



30 



place on such Russian main connection roads, for the first 
vehicles choose to appear quite late that day. 
And still, they would not bother to give me a lift. They 
would just stop to hear my story. It is terribly boring to 
travel by car on such lengthy, lonely roads, so you stop at 
every occasion, with occasions only popping up with hours 
and hours of distance between each other. Hence people 
halt, get down their drivers window, lighten a cigarette and 
start to chat. Do not use all your hope to inspire your 
talking and lobby yourself into their vehicles. In Russia, you 
have to be a sovereign economist with the rare and 
vulnerable material called human hope. Only throw a little 
bit of your precious resource at such a chatterer. He will 
probably not let you in once he has finished his cigarette. 
And you need some genuine hope inside of you once you 
decide to walk for hours and hours behind the dust cloud 
that driver has left you walking in. Thinking back now, I 
realise that I did not get any lift to Kyn. I did not even 
make it to sit in a motor vehicle this whole week. I made 
everything by foot. The reason, why I hardly noticed this 
default and why my memories of these endless walks along 
a straight double-concrete trail to the horizon just to 
discover that there is another infinity stretching to a 
consecutive horizon is quite simple. I chanced to meet two 
farmers. Yes, I met two farmers. In the beginning I would 
not believe it myself. There were actually to men working 
on a meadow to fish something like hay out of the pouring 
rain. I started talking to them as if to myself. But they 
would not socialise like that. "Lad, sit down with us first!" 
Indeed, how can you start a conversation standing when 
there is half a hundred kilometres of emptiness around you. 
So we sat and we looked at the fir trees on the other side of 
the meadow. I had been walking a lot. I had forgotten what 
it meant to look at fir trees. I literally rediscovered them 



31 



with the help of my new company. "Where do you want to 

go", the elder peasant asked slowly after a while. "Kin- 

Zavod" I answered economically. The less unnecessary 

words you make, the later they understand that you are an 

alien. And thus, you might chance to get a glimpse of real 

talk. "Kin-Zavod is over there, but it is quite far". 

Something was going through my body, but I did not yet 

know what. I turned around to look into the direction my 

neighbour on the hay had indicated. It was exactly where I 

came from. And now I heard it clearly, it was a laughter, 

not mine. It was the laughter of a woman shaking me, 

shaking my bones, my wits. So, after all this I could still 

laugh at myself. That meant I was alive, healthy. Give me 

three days of rest, a bed, some light food, not too fat and I 

will be socialisable again. I was overwhelmed with joy. I 

collected my new spirits and made an explorative request 

myself. 

"And where is Kyn railway station?" I asked. "That's a little 

closer" both replied amused, "over there as well, same 

direction". This was it. I had a direction to go. I had some 

kind of train taking me to Sverdlovsk in not too far future. 

Everything superficially necessary for me was resolved, so I 

could turn to the essentials. 

-"What are you doing here" -"We make hay" the elder 

peasant replied. He had a massive scull and a broad throat. 

His clothes were practical, a lot of linen, tough. 

-"Isn't it a bit wet for haying" 

-"Won't get much dryer before autumn, probably." 

-"So what do you do with this filthy hay then?" 

-"Feed my cow." 

-"How come this is a meadow and not a forest as all the 

kolkhoz lands?" 

-"That's my work, lad." The older one replied and looked 

at the younger one. "Thirty years, I worked on this patch of 



32 



land. It was a forest then. Now it is a nice piece. A week 
ago, I mowed it by hand, now we collect the remainders of 
the rains to one heap if we find a dryer moment these days." 
"How did you come here," I asked with a slight uneasiness. 
"By foot, just as you" they answered. 
"But how do you take the hay to your cow then?" 
"Leave that problem to the winter. Now we make a heap of, 
let's say 4 metres. We put a flag-pole on it. Then we will 
know where to dig the snow in winter and get down to the 
heap." 

I laughed at my new friend, he laughed at me. We were 
comrades in arms, fighting the battle for realism against an 
empty post-modern petrol bubble. The realist method, as 
Brecht taught rightly, is made up of a series of well- 
polished exaggerations. Only these artefacts of monstrous 
unreality can coincide realistically with the monstrosity of 
capitalist accumulation. 

Miles away I hit the petrol bubble again. There is a most 
poignant cinema film by Gauddart, who had reason to hate 
television like the end of the world. A working youngster 
steals off time, records and devotion from his gramophone 
company to date with a young Parisian living behind a 
window on the other side of his street. Once he gets into 
her flat, he is introduced nicely to her parents. Still 
exchanging niceties with these parents, their daughter has 
already let in her student lover, a boy abundant in free time 
and spare money for fashion clothes. "Well", the girl 
announces, "we two are off. Have a nice evening!" Her 
working-class guest is left standing uneasily among her 
parents. Her parents look uneasily at this one, not ordered, 
not taken. "Well" says her mother defaitistically, "You can 
watch television with us." And she shows him to a place in 
front of the screen. He could not even turn down the offer. 



33 



So I sat down and looked at the screen. I could not really 
make out how long I had been off-line but for Central 
European standards it was by far too long. Once in 
Germany, I saw a business card of a former freak which 
had a postal address, telephone, even fax and said in the 
end "no mail". Everyone has a good laugh at his joke. 
Clearly, he will reach retirement age very soon. 
However, "no mail" was the message I got from the screen 
as soon as I managed to remember my damned pass-word. 
What is this, I marvelled. There are dozens of comrades 
getting paid for the hour, sitting in front of computer 
screens and being obliged to simulate some kind of work. 
Is it possible that none of them has been able to direct his 
or her professional boredom at me for some minutes all 
these days? To be sure, there were several hundred spam 
messages. A lot of exceptions prove a rule. And at that 
point, my anger was content to find a single culprit, the 
woman whom our comrades on the Ural railways would 
have surely called my girl-friend. Clearly, she had all her 
mind taken by the task to date with a German student in 
the Carpathian Mountains. To do that, they would have 
certainly exchanged a hell of a lot of Emails these last 
weeks. And there had been not a single half minute of 
mercy to throw some rests of dry bread at me which had 
eventually fallen from the orgiastic meal they were 
preparing each other. Actually, I did not resent her not 
writing to me. But I did resent myself to have believed in so 
many cheap declarations she had issued for my relief. "Yes, 
next time I sleep with another one, I will tell you, even 
beforehand. Imagine, I will write to you what I feel and 
how I develop." We had been so merry then. I declared in 
return to write old-style paper letters and send them to an 
address which she should let me know. She did not let me 



34 



know any address. So this was it? As far as mail is 
concerned, this was it. But there is still another way to 
reach friends born after 1975. It's costly, but it sometimes 
works: mobile telephones. Throwing half a thousand 
roubles in, I got a cabin in Sverdlovsk. 
-"Hello, I am in Asia." 
-"Where?" 
-"In Asia!" 
-"Where?" 

-"In A-S-I-A!!! Sverdlovsk, tomorrow Omsk." 
-"Where? I don't understand a word." 
When you have not spoken to a real friend for weeks such 
conversation is not exactly funny. I remained silent this 
time. Then there came a question from the other continent: 
-"Have you seen lake Bajkal?" Lake Bajkal was farther away 
from me than she at that moment. Lake Bajkal meant more 
than half a week of non-stop train ride, anyway I would 
never get a cheap ticket so quickly now in the high season, 
in the middle of August. I looked at the cold rain beating 
against the windows. How can you explain anything about 
Siberia when the telephone connection transmits but 
syllables? I know, future generations will adopt. Their 
communication will be more general, less self- 
commiserating probably: 
"/." 

ic \ . " 

a I ?? 

"~ 1 " 
- O.K. 

However, I managed to ask and make myself understood. 
-"Will you go on holiday with your new lover?" 
-"Yes, 16 th ." 

Again she had broken her promise. Another time, it was 
my questions to hit on it. She would never tell me out of 
her own initiative. And in the meantime she would enjoy 



35 



the sociable peace until the evil investigative fervour of my 
questions would destroy our harmony again. I thought 
about English classes back in 1988. We had a very nice 
teacher. She was never envious of our time and attention 
when we told her outright that we had found no time or 
motivation to prepare her texts, i.e. in classical terms to do 
our home-work. "But," she once explained desolately "I 
don't want to hit on it, you know. I want to hear it from 
you, right away, just when we start talking about our texts. 
You can probably imagine that I have little professional 
satisfaction in discussing a text with you which nobody 
except for me has taken the trouble to read. This is not a 
theatre course, I want to teach you English." Yes, we did 
understand her, we did commiserate her. But surely, next 
time we would have a go again and try to get through 
without admitting that we had not cared a minute about her, 
that is, between classes. During classes I even fell in love 
with her which was the source of much confusion and 
irritably hot day-dreams. Nonetheless, it was just too 
elegant a feeling to cheat away without having done any 
home-work. In principle, I understood my friend on the 
other end of the telephone connection. I might have 
possibly done something similar. Would I? I cannot really 
tell. I never had the occasion to find out in the last 2 years. 
And in the 16 years before that, I cannot remember a single 
incident when I acted like that. Maybe my memory has 
omitted such incidents. Well, it has, now I recall. But that is 
very, very far away already. There was a change in the 
altitude of cracks and noise in the telephone line. She had 
given me her daughter, our daughter, as we had agreed to 
call her, meaning not a new bourgeois entity of two parents, 
pretending for heterosexual wholeness, but a whole 
commune (though, still to be founded). Our daughter knew 
perfectly how to use the poor technical base linking us. For 



36 



half a minute she simply said my name and I said hers. I 
said "Eva, Eva, Eva", there was no place for lengthy talk 
such as "Maria Andreevna" or something of the like, 
simultaneously I heard "Ma-in-M-nnn-in-M-Mat— n." My 
heart exploded with happiness. There is a longstanding 
observation in me how much I love her mother for her 
craziness to have a child in these times. I do not love her 
for having chosen a fascist father. I do not really like her 
compromises with Ukrainian nationalist at all. 
And then, again I chanced to hear half a sentence without 
major interruption. It was her again. She went "I wish that 
the sun should shine for you." This was too much. This 
was taken one to one from a pop song. I was furious with 
rage and anger, I was sobbing with malcontentment and 
bare physical disappointment. Well, the conversation was 
over anyway. 

1 got onto a commuter train. Sometimes in my life, I really 
wonder how I do that, getting on a train. It seems to work 
really independently of me, in spite of the state I am in. 
Getting on a train is so terribly difficult. Where do I take all 
this energy from, this coordination work? My friend V. told 
me about a case of Western workaholics. "How can you 
call off this advertisement campaign, when I have given my 
last guts, the kernel of my days to make it happen, how can 
you!" The complaining party was a copy-writer who had 
invested more or less three words into the campaign. They 
went like "buy our ..." or the like. I sat down in the 
Elektrichka train and I perfectly understood the 
exasperation of the colleague. He had given so much. I had 
given so much. For half a year, I have boiled down literally 
everything in my life to be able to attend to Eva. Attend to 
her in perfect symmetry of what her mother did for her the 

2 years before. You can call it compensatory symmetry or 
affirmative action. I have endured her cruel scenes of envie 



37 



for months, taught her to draw calmly, taught her not to be 
afraid that I will kill her as her biological father kept on 
inscribing into her psyche. In a joint effort, we erased her 
fixation on Ma-ma. Whenever she cried the syllable Ma, I 
would run and be at her disposal. So she took to calling me 
ma and her mother by her first name. Sometimes, we 
organised an equality of attention over the week. But in the 
end, it was always me who took more responsibility, save 
for dealing with Ukrainian institutions which are a 
nightmare of disdain to every stranger not being able to put 
on the obligatory middle class Ukrainian artificial talk. 
Finally, I hitch-hiked with her across the Crimean peninsula 
while her mother was busy in Moscow. We formed a team 
of unbeatable liberty. Hitch-hiking together, she took the 
liberty to sleep on my violin case while I was fiddling in the 
early summer sun waiting especially for lorries with high 
seats and wide views to take us up, one of our shared 
favourites. I painted, she painted. She sang, I sang. When 
we went short of food, she readily learnt how to find herbs 
in the woods which make a nice salad. She cooperated with 
me whenever one of the Russian machos tried to interest 
the police in us. Some of these anabolica-stuffed new- 
Russian men apparently see no other reason for male 
beings to care about children than outright paedophile 
interests. Her biological father even tried to exploit a 
deliberately invented accusation of this type before a 
Ukrainian court against me. Though always bragging of his 
clientele liaisons among the Kiev ruling class he fatally lost 
that law case and Eva was handed over to her mother by 
court decision. 

To tell the whole story, there was a one-sided interest by 
Eva for me. I was a missing species in her daily expanding 
collection of anthropological knowledge. She has no 



38 



brother and her biological father is a hampered, a sensually 
broken authoritarian Casanova. I can understand that Eva 
does not take the same interest in his body as her mother 
did. We managed to invent a more adequate language about 
hunger, about danger, about sleep. Sleeping is a terribly 
dangerous hunger for a 2 and a half year old child. We 
visited communes of the past and of the present. We 
watched sunsets and sheep, horses and kitten, pine-trees 
and insects, boats and locomotives. On our last day, we hit 
the sea at Alupta, the only place of heaven on earth I 
chance to know. Yet, summer and its tourists easily turn 
this paradise into hell. There is no peace, no single hour of 
night and day. It is all noise, brutal noise about making 
money, making photos, making souvenirs and fast 
transport. Well, we nicked in and out without having to 
spend the night there. I explained to Eva, that this is the 
last day, that she will be able to see her best friend Karina 
and that is it, that we have two night trains ahead to return 
her to her dad. She understood everything. She even 
understood the choice I gave her to bath her either in sweet 
or in sea water. She chose sweet water. She cried but that 
was out of custom. As soon as she had grasped the big, big 
towel, she was whole again. Silently, we walked up the hill. 
And there at the bend allowing to look down for the last 
time. To look down the cliffs to the immensely transparent 
blue waters, she called me to stand still and look back. 
"Some time" she said clearly and gazed at the waters. And 
she took her time. And I took my time. And we stood and 
looked back onto the waters. I saw bodies swimming, they 
were all transparent, the sun was playing around them on a 
deep, deep blue fond. I thought about that New Zealand 
writer, her hopeless love on the Spanish Isles, the words 
she found for her body, she had found in such waters. 
They might take Eva one day, I thought with a muffled 



39 



horror. One of these Ukrainian profiteers of social decay 
could make it with the help of some cheap adoration, some 
fast- food of Hollywood sentimentality and it will all go 
down the drain as it went with her mum: courting, binding, 
motherhood, emotional desertion combined with legal and 
material bondage. Already today Eva boasts how proud she 
is to be a Ukrainian; she wants to be a princess. Oh 
goodness, it will all be ready to ruin her life once she is old 
enough to buy their lies. You try to counter-educate and it 
is just a queer drop in a flood of false plastic dolls making 
her one of them. My tears were becoming a nuisance. My 
shirt was getting wet. "Enough" Eva said and we turned 
away swiftly, never looking back any more. I cannot help 
crying when I think about this afternoon. It is not exacdy a 
sad memory. It was a beautiful day for us. That is all, 
actually. Eva can find a lot of people who can give her 
something similar to what I was able to give her. No 
construction, no Bourgeois family morale necessary. Nice, 
that we both are still alive. It could be worse. 

Yet, even now in the listless commuter train rolling roughly 
into the depths of Asia, there were tears rolling down my 
cheek. In front of me sat a girl of 13 with her grandmother. 
They came from their plot of land with bags full fruits and 
vegetables to be conserved for a long, long winter to come. 
The girl did not cease to look at me. Her observation was 
all-intense. Suddenly, after silent conversation with her 
grandmother, she opened her bag and took out a big glass 
bowl of raspberries. "This is for you" she said simply. You 
know, what she could not know. The last days, I had 
missed a lot, but to be honest not exactly raspberries. Yet, I 
never ate so sweet, so aromatic raspberries as in that train. 
All the plavciki sitting around this scene were cheering and 
the girl got a bit shy in the noise. She felt cornered, really. 



40 



Nobody should have any reason to claim that she had taken 
a fancy in me. So she did, what only very poor people are 
able to do. She dealt out all her harvest of raspberries. I bet 
there was nothing left for her in the end. She would give it 
to everyone around her, the fruit of hours and hours of 
work. On getting off the train, I secretly promised her that 
my love will try to learn from hers, so much more mature 
than mine, so very, very useful for everyone around. 



5. Omsk sisters on holiday 

The afternoon's sky is run over with clouds. To their 
company, the main gardens of Omsk inner city are overrun 
with people in festive spirits. Gulane, walking, is a strange 
cardinal aim in Russian life. It has the air of a dinosaur 
habit, a hang-over from baroque times. It involves showing 
off as much as finding a collective melody of strolling and, 
well, and meeting. Maybe that is the main attraction, you 
constantly meet and greet on these walks. So gulanie is 
basically a provincial past-time. Once you know less than a 
crucial one per cent of the people you chance to look into 
their eyes, the thrill has gone. A modern metropolis allows 
no gulanie. Maybe that is why folks in Moskow are so 
terribly fixed to narrow consumerist ghettos or, if they 
cannot afford it, terribly privatist. 

Omsk is a provincial setting, to be sure. Looking at the 
seemingly chaotic mass movement through the main alleys 
of the park and adjacent places, they recognise at least 
some friends every fifty steps. I would attribute the 
atmosphere of gayness to the short and precious summer 
days, had I not made my first acquaintance with Russian 
public walking in knee-deep snow of mid winter. I was 



41 



working in the town of Khar'kov then and lived at the 
place of two young women at one of the two central 
promenades. Their mother was at a psychiatric hospital 
then and I was very careful, not to abuse the trust they had 
put in me, opening their door to a stranger. While the elder 
one was being sucked up by a business career, selling 
English style tea to customers not necessarily dissatisfied 
with Russian style tea, the younger sister was a public 
walker, a passionate one to say the least. My proposal to 
have a look at Chechov in a theatre next door were really 
misconceived from the beginning. One was busily working. 
The other busily walking, gulala. Several times in the 
evening she would sort of dive up from the street to the 
upper story flat. I could then observe the movements of 
her strong, large and young body. She was as if radiating 
from the glamour of the street, the encounters, the little 
consumerist distractions on her ways. In her self-assured 
demeanour was something common with this sly selfish 
Russian obsession of some women about themselves only, 
their own bodies only, their own smiles only. Essentially, 
Zinaida Evgenina Serebrjakova hardly painted anybody else 
than herself from 1884 to 1967. Sure she was French-born, 
but ten years of life in Petrograd (1912-1918 and 1920-1924) 
and on her husband's estate, Neskuchnoe (1918-1919), 
made a perfect Russian flaneuse of her. My flatmate's eyes 
were glowing quite akin each evening in the light of the 
promenade lamps; her breath had the strength and 
determination with which you have to take eastern frosts in 
order to receive them as a welcome medium to invigorate 
your senses. One prolonged hesitation, one defeatist 
minute of aimless standing around and you have lost the 
game, you would be bloody freezing for the rest of the 
evening. She had no air of freezing. I probably never 
understood a person by mere sight in such a spatial 



42 



wholeness. And here it was. She did not need any artificial 
scene. Har'kov main street was her inborn theatre and she 
came in from the Estrada just to nip some warmer air as if 
not paying any attention on the applause following her 
steps behind the curtain. And back again she would dive 
onto the street like a Bahamian diver out for red shells in 
the depth of tropical water. 

Four years later, I became suddenly curious, what had 
become of them. My imagination was indeed insufficient to 
portrait the younger sister now. Even larger, stronger, with 
a still more spatial presence of her body than half a decade 
before? Something must have changed, changed direction 
probably. I decided to take a look by surprise. I actually 
managed to sneak into the main entrance, got up the stairs 
and knocked at their door. An elderly, utterly frightened 
woman responded. I knew that their mother had returned, 
who would probably never open the door for me. And if 
she opened, it would probably all be representation, niceties, 
conversation actually dispersing the attention needed to 
grasp the traces of a very specific atmosphere, I once 
succeeded to understand with such a rare sensual intensity. 
Probably it was only possible then due to the privileged 
senses sharpened to the utmost by a first sight. I talked 
reassuringly through the closed door. She would indeed not 
open. I left, silently laughing about myself. Actually many 
Har'kov friendships ended similarly. I tended to be 
somehow too close to the home bases to associate freely. 
Indeed, I should have better taken part in the public 
walking. But for such past-time I definitely lack this 
minimum one per cent of acquaintances in these cities. 

So, Har'kov and Omsk are sisters with little in between 
them than the Ural and some 3000 railway kilometres: 



43 



Russian provincial towns, run away from them if you want 
and if only can. 

The beauty in an acquaintance of non-erotic closeness 
counts nothing under the grinding set of stereotypes 
processing the intestines of provincial sociability for a 
materially beneficial outcome in the most traditional sense. 
For my little travelling ignorance this does not make much 
sense. 

Leaving the town for Novosibirsk, I stood in front of the 
railway office with two sisters. For some time, they 
followed every movement of me with strangely attentive 
eyes and then said with occasional intimacy: "German". I 
was scattered. It is quite irritating to be somehow publicly 
identifiable as a legitimate grand-son to mass murderers. 
Intrusive observation is so much more reassuring when you 
know it to be one-sided. "Will Novosibirsk be as provincial 
as Omsk?" I asked them, plunged in shame and guilt. 
"Omsk is provincial" one sister answered slyly. 
"Novosibirsk is the capital," the other one concluded. They 
remarked that I was still red in my face from their 
investigative assault . 



6. taking an expectable nip of 

aloofness at 
Akademgorodok 

I got stuck in the left luggage cellar of Novosibirsk station. 
Not with my luggage, but with two young Englishmen. 
They would talk about the tail of the devil and his children. 
They had been travelling like me with not more than 10 
words of Russian at their disposal to dilute their 



44 



observations with any local opinion around. Actually, it was 
quite interesting to listen to their accumulated accounts. 
They had as many questions as they had collected mute- 
film observations. All they said was really nicely balanced. I 
hope I will not make worse in China. 
-"Did we get it right, economically everything is going to 
pieces here, isn't it?" 

Well, what should I say? After a litde while, I could figure 
out two contradicting political approaches in the two 
travellers. 

One of them was pushing a nice anti-neoliberal line of 
observation, the other one was more sceptical. 
-"What do Russians really think about all this Coca-Cola 
invasion?" 

Well, what should I say? 

-"We have been to the countryside, there is absolutely 
nothing left?" 
Well, what should I say? 

-"We look at this Novosibirsk railway front, these 
incredibly big buildings in such a ruined state and we tend 
to think, this is the work of socialism altogether. But that is 
not right, is it, socialism did the work, capitalism ruined 
them?" 

Well, what should I say? 

Here were two guiding stars, heirs to their Australian 
counterparts. I liked to listen to them more than answering 
them. For what should I say? They were from 
Southampton. 

I have been to Southampton only once at the end of a 
crazy hitch-hike by road and boat from Cuba to the 
Bahamas, from Florida to Newburyport into the most 
appalling New English conservatism, taking a boat to 
Southampton, where it all came from, the pilgrims, the 



45 



sects, Puritanism, the workaholics, the British colonial drill. 
America would be a continental, cool and slightly ruined 
out-back like Siberia had there not been the iron grip from 
Southampton. Well, the Southampton you see now is a 
corpse of what it was. A corpse stuffed with money, 
though. I have rarely seen a posher place. There were 
closed residential regatta quarters, recent development sites 
which stank of money and private security and boredom. 
Every step you made was a commercial event and a security 
issue simultaneously. Setting over to the Isle of Man is an 
occasion to rip you of incredible sums money. You can 
cross half of Siberia for the price you pay for a ridiculous 
little boat trip at home. I walked through the black night in 
your place for hours, still sea sick and already sick of 
Europe. Around the homes of the very rich stands an 
immeasurable army of semi-detached middle class lodgings. 
Everything so British, so cared for, so pale, so sick of tea 
and sugar and Sunday papers and their night shopping of 
cheap booze served by another army of Pakistani neo- 
colonial commercial servants. And all the mainstream gives 
them in return for their 24-hour servitude is disrespect and 
some pennies. And if the racially white mainstream does 
not succeed in keeping up appearances, most middle-class 
in England does though, a pathetically shaven pit -bull 
racism emerges. Your predecessors were able to tyrannise 
half of the globe with it. The hell of neo-liberal 
globalisation essentially is of British colonial making (thank 
Soviet Russia that it is not of German making). And 
Southampton ripped its fruits for 300 years. Southampton 
was the door spitting out pale, hampered, raping, rubbing, 
murdering soldiers onto the colonised world and sucking in 
merchants for incredibly unfair prices. Now it is a nice little 
back-yard of London-Heathrow continuing the business on 
a much larger and still more brutal scale. 



46 



What should I say? You are travelling a country which 
ripped itself off the chain of colonial profiteers before the 
Irish could even set up a nationalist army. Soviet Russia has 
resisted the global game of capitalist trade hierarchy and it 
has paid the highest price in world history for it. Soviet 
Russia has financed the decolonisation of British crimes, 
your predecessors left around the world: Shanghai, Burma, 
Tanzania, Namibia, Granada, and still helped to reconstruct 
your one's rubbles better than yours had ever allowed them 
to become. And with a careful I for today's German neo- 
fascists who operate breathtakingly close to our argument, 
we could add to the list Magdeburg, Dresden, Halberstadt. 
Your army only set fire on them and the Nazis remained. 
Soviet Russia liberated them street by street and then built 
them up more spaciously, more rational and more social 
than they had ever been before. Siberia had to bleed bitterly 
for the combined ignorance of our grand-fathers. 

During almost a century Soviet Russia and its Siberian 
backwaters have challenged the deadly world order, they 
have succeeded in turning the Capitalist war propaganda 
upside down. And now, after 70 years of incredible efforts 
and exhaustion, they have given in, politically dwarfed, 
culturally annihilated and economically reduced to a colony 
themselves. Can you blame them, while Hodorkovskij daily 
transfers fortunes to the London municipality? (note 2012: 
in the following, Mihail Borisovic had to cease some of 
these privileges to capital closer aligned with the federal 
political police) Often Siberians themselves assess that their 
country looks as if after a war. Well, Siberia has lost the 
most important war in modern history just recently: the 
Cold War. And now it pays for a cold peace under foreign 
and domestically foreign class rule. What should I say? 



47 



I only had a night for Southampton. But it shocked me 
probably more than Siberia was able to shock you all that 
way. Your officially public spaces were a moneyed 
emptiness with privatised access for privileged consumers 
only. Your licked buildings of pretentiously modest height 
are actually a source of financial ruin, administered by 
dubious mortgage trusts and predator banks sucking the 
blood out of middle-class careerists, such as you might 
become one day if everything goes as they want it to go. 
What should I say? 

Let's spit in their soup even if invited to their dining table, 
let's smuggle sand into most varied parts of their machine, 
let's strike where we can to bring those down who ruined 
Siberia, and Southampton. I did not say that in front of the 
Novosibirsk railway station, though. I thought it would 
look just too ridiculous, to spit out so much anger and 
uncouth class hatred on such a nice metropolitan morning. 

After eating a set of most juicy cceur-de-beuf tomatoes 
from private gardens off the street floor, I was all ready for 
painting a juicy portrait of a 19' century Siberian house left 
over in the middle of the city. Then, I made my way to the 
academic township south at the "Ob seaside". Learning a 
lesson from my break-down in the social isolation of the 
Ural Mountains, I had taken great pains to hold on to three 
contacts in the centre of Siberia: Kostja, Olga and Larissa. 
The first is one of Katja's friends, the second her one and 
only mother and the third among her best comrades. So, 
for the following two weeks, my movements and 
investigations were contained within the far reaching 
provisions made by my Leningrad companion of mid-July 
before departing to Rwanda, wise provisions, to be sure. 



48 



Trying to sketch the tune of Akademgorodok, I would be 
caught in the trap of singing a song for Katja. That would 
be unfair to Akademgorodok and I prefer to serve for the 
cult of personalities who will be physically less than 10 000 
km away from me during the forthcoming year(":. All I can 
say is that I am glad for her, that she got out of this. 
Everybody who wants to do something in the sense of 
Marx's 1 F thesis on Feuerbach has to get out of a 
Khrushchovian dream nowadays ("Die Philosophlnnen 
haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert. Es kommt 
darauf an, sie zu veraendern" ). 

After two weeks in their orbit, I can even understand her 
leaving the circles of Novosiberian vanguard art and its 
cute little Bohemia. One night, I got up in Kostja's studio 
and discovered the poster of an anti-commercialist 
"monstration". It has enchanted my soul, as the cruel 
French song goes, and stolen my sleep ("et la premiere qu'il 
vu, lui a ravis son ame" ). To be honest, I knew about the 
anti-commercialist happenings in Novosibirsk long before 
from Russian indymedia. And to my mind it lacks some 
originality to post-modernise Mayday with the financial 
help of the Ford foundation. Yes, I know, the Ford 
foundation was used by the scene to finance the production 
of their more commercialist interfaces. Nevertheless, the 
whole of this little fragmented collective has an eye on the 



1 The philosophers have just interpreted the 
world in different modes, whereas the real 
issue is to change it. (that is not the 
official translation) 

2 „And the first one he saw has enchanted his 
soul." from the ancient French song "Le roi a 
fait battre tambour". 



2 



49 



institutions of Austro-German and US-American agencies 
for cultural imperialism. A considerable part of its 
productivity is directly linked to a speculation bubble on 
the agencies' objective need to let off balloons with hot air 
from the centre of Siberia. Such artefacts rising from the 
soil of Novosibirsk are worth a smile among monitors 
located in the world centres of capital and cultural 
accumulation. And their smile can be worth more purchase 
power on the world market than the life-toil of thousands 
in these damned forgotten freezing plains. 

If the same town bore let's say the name Starosibirsk or 
Novokuzneck, its cultural marketing assets would be much 
more limited. I am not against using culturally motivated 
dole money from the enemy. D'accord. Nimm was Du 
kriegst. Aber pfeiff auf den Quark. Denk an Deine Klasse. 
Und die mach' stark. 

But can you really provide long standing anti-commercialist 
agitation with the theoretical background of Mickey Mouse? 
Guy Debord was a provocateur and the Situationist 
International of 1968 did produce comics, yes. But the 
comrades knew Marx's analysis of value by heart and 
developed it further. That does make a difference. 

However, the poster I saw is miles ahead of Mickey Mouse 
already, highly economic in its communication: condensed, 
tactile hatred. There is an irrefutable urge in it. I will go 
around the corner to have its integral text before me: 



3 Erich Kaestner "Take what you can get hold 
of. But refuse to buy their lies. Think about 
your class and make it strong (i.e. the 
working-class, as the song makes quite clear, 
there is a thrilling music by Eisler for it) 



50 



"WHEN they tell us, that our love goes along with youth 

discount, 

WHEN they sell our liberty in new-year's price-breaker 

action, 

WHEN the prison guard wants to snicker (us) into his 

format 

WHAT can we do to retort against such a Demonstration 

of force and power (the question mark gets lost in the 

flying hair of a flabbergasted McDonald's clown with his 

eyes crossed out by black spray paint) 

MONSTRATION, come and monstrate, all that is not yet 

sold out on the total market of everything 

fucking police!!! 
www.monstration.narod.ru 

The first sentence is the strongest one. Though there is an 
essentialism in the fixation of "our love" it is still a 
convincingly open signifier for a tissue of 
unsalable/uncontrollable dynamics in social relations. The 
point is made by the collectivisation of a collectivising 
tendency. I am grateful to the collective copy writer (: for 
not putting in "my love" or "your love". The whole loving 
business is terribly individualising and reactionary as we 
know. But in the slogan "our love", there is at least still a, 
let's say theoretical, possibility to form a critical mass. Yet, 
behind the polemical construction might hide an all too 
clear notion of the lovingly unalienated life without 
commercialism. I would place its approach closer to the 
Marxian philosophical-economical manuscripts, than to the 
brilliant introduction (written in 1 843 for the critique of the 
Hegelian philosophy of Law). According to a recent Polish 
discussion I was lucky to attend, this last piece is by far the 
most brilliant Marxian writing among the younger texts. 



51 



The Polish comrades judged from the viewpoint of their 
political practice (check on www.lewica.pl, I cite the 
contribution to our discussion by the editor of the book 
reviews) which makes their lively perception of the text 
practically valuable. Look how that sounds in Russian (by 
the way: is the time ripe for a new translation or does the 
old one set of sparks and lightening similarly bright as from 
reading and rereading the German original?): 

"EAHHCTBeHHO npaKmUWCKU B03MO)KHOe OCBo6o>KAeHHe 

Pocchh ecrb ocBo6o>KAeHHe c no3HHHH mou TeopHH, 
KOTOpafl o6AaBAJieT Bbicinen cyiHHOCTbio neAOBeKa caMOBO 
neAOBeKa. B Pocchh 3MaHHHnaiiHJi ot cpedmeeKoem 
BOCMoacna AHHib KaK 3MaHHHnaHH.a BMecTe c TeM h ot 
uacmnbix noGeA naA cpeAHOBeKOM. B Pocchh Hexaxoe 

paGcTBO He MO)KeT GbIT yHHHTO)KeHO 6e3 TOrO, HTo6bI He 

GbiAo yHHHTOMceHo ecMKoe paGcTBO. OcHoeamejiHOR Pocchh He 

MO>KeT COBepHIHTb peBOAIOHHTO, He Ha^aB peBOAIOHHTO c 

caMAeo ocHoeanun. 3iviaHH;HnaH;H}i PycKOBO ecT 
3iviaHH;HnaH;H}i ueJioeeKa. ToAoea stoh 3iviaHH;HnaH;HH — 
ucKyccmea, ee cepdife - npoAemapuam. PIcicyccTBa He mojkkt 
GbiTbi BonAonj;eHa b AencTBHTeAHOCTb 6e3 ynpa>KAeHHH 
npoAeTapnaTaG npoAeTapnaT He mojkct ynpa>KAHHTb ceGii 
He BonAOTHB HcKyccTBa b AencTBHTeAHOCTb." (BBeAene K 
KpHTHice rereAOBCKoii (pHAococpHH npaBa, 1834, KapA 
MapKc, coHHHeHM, H3A. 2., 1955, 414-429, Tyr 428 h 429.) 
What makes this dialectical firework to my mind materially 
powerful today is its openness (pay attention to the 6 more 
or less delicate manipulations, I fabricated in copying the 
original text, to make rereading more interesting). In 
contract to the later philosophical-economical manuscripts 
there is no essentialist version of the unalienated man 
created and superimposed to revolutionary creativity. Marx 
did a step backwards in this respect, as Europe did in a 
whole. Most of bourgeois humanism follows down the 



52 



idealist line, including major parts of the Social Forum 
process. 

The second sentence in the poster breaks free from 
essentialist sentimentality, but at what a price? "Our 
freedom" stinks of US freedom- fries. Freedom has been a 
word meaning positively nothing throughout bourgeois 
enlightment, today with enlightment under authoritarian 
reversion it means "regime change in failed states". But the 
rebel phrase against its sell-out still makes sense. And 
maybe it is better to promise positively nothing than to 
promise false love, isn't it? 

As to the third catch-phrase I am not sure whether I have 
understood it right. "Snickers" sounds like a chocolate bar 
brand. "Format" sounds like a torture instrument from the 
hellish cabinet of Mister Gill Gates. "Prison ward" sounds 
no better. Interestingly, the third movement has no positive 
vision any more. It is a distopia without a hole in it. My 
friend Merle from Munich would say: "the mouse cannot 
get out". 

The call for action has a very consistent grammatical form. 
The noun monstration is dissolved into a verb, monstrate, 
very clever. To my mind, the activating quality of a text can 
be measured to a certain extent by the proportion of verbs 
in active use. 

"Total market" makes my bones chill, because a terrible cry 
of 1943 from the Sportpalast in Berlin resounds in my 
spine reading this ("Wollt Ihr den totalen Krieg?" "Ja!"). I 
would never use it. But as the grand-children of those who 
put an end to that totality at least, you are free to use the 
legacy as you think it right. 



53 



For the same reason, I avoid the catch-phrase 
"totalitarianism". As far as I could follow the discussion, it 
is not an analytical category, but a short cut to the above 
mentioned spinal reaction. Hannah Arendt abused it to sell 
her misconception of Soviet Russia and the French 
Revolution alike (to the difference of Soviet Union 
propaganda she earned her reputation lying both about 
American capitalism and about Socialism, whereas 
Brezhnev only lied about Socialism). General Marcos and a 
lot of Communist Cuban and Latin American writers use a 
similar shortcut to make up for an insufficient analysis of 
global capitalism and its intrinsic contradictions today. 
The problem about shortcuts to spinal reactions is that our 
spine is damned sly. Overuse its rapid reaction just a little 
too much and there will be no reaction at all. But, listen 
comrades. We need a last resort. If Bush, like El'cin starts 
to shell his own parliament (the October 2001 anthrax 
attacks by parts of the FBI were already very close to that 
what might come). If this happens tomorrow, we will still 
need a word to describe what is happening. We cannot give 
out all analytical registers before the very end. Well, this 
warning actually stems from an experience about the use of 
Prussian blue in painting. Maybe however, this metaphor is 
not adequate and philosophical analytics entitle to use 
totalising connotations here and now. But still, I would like 
to be able to understand a philosophical foundation of the 
terms in use then. 

That way or the other, "Total market of everything" is a 
pleonasm and not helpful. Sounds as if you do not really 
believe the totality you state in the first place. Quite 
obviously, there is an intrinsic contradiction in this final call. 
If the market is total, those who will come to the 
demonstration can only be market zombies. Guy Debord 



54 



would agree with this vision. Althusser would excuse your 
insult on the demonstrators, because you cannot fight the 
ruling ideology without being ideological yourself, a 
dilemma which should not lead to self-contentment, 
though. If the market is not total we can still call our enemy 
a hegemonic force, even a dominating (rocnoACTByioiiiaJi) 
force. 

But how do you call our enemy? "Fucking police" This is 
unacceptable. If they would be actually fucking, let's say 
one another, everything would be easier with them. They 
would not seek so actively for sublimation with their 
beating sticks, they would be less keen on grabbing for 
substitutive objects on the streets and demobilise them in 
arrest cells for symbolic penetration. The main problem 
about police is that they are rather not fucking but doing 
their service for getting satisfaction. 

Still, there is a special problematic with gay policemen, 
according to my colleagues in the Scottish police arrest 
following our G8 protests 2005. They had definitely a 
longer criminal record than me as far as the British Isles 
were concerned and they could illustrate their claims with 
vivid detail. According to them, Thatcherism and Blairism 
combined have tended to transform British police units 
from (alienated) working-class background recruitment 
towards co-opting lower middle-class careerists. I cannot 
tell what was the case before the miner strike repressions 
1984, when the bobby was still a workmate and repression 
on the mainland rather an economic task for private capital. 
Now, there are definitely major gay clientele networks 
making up very aggressive police units, which operate in 
working-class districts of Glasgow. Their sadist potential is 
evident. I have seen some evidence for sexualised 



55 



aggression during my arrest in Glasgow. Now these 
policemen might actually be fucking during service, but still 
this rather reinforces hierarchy within the unit and 
hierarchy creates aggressive practices towards civil victims. 
This is a delicate topic, something for a diary, really, not for 
a poster. In our press campaign which got a good echo in 
Scottish mainstream media (just google for "free fresco 
academy" and "G8") we choose to avoid the issue 
altogether. I think this issue cannot be adequately 
communicated in a society which is still repressively 
heterosexualised. It is just too attractive for agents of law 
and order who adhere to a heterosexual credo. They would 
never go along with us and criticise police violence as an 
expression of capitalist domination. They would only take 
up our evidence to campaign for heterosexually clean police 
beating. I could not imagine anything more horrible than 
that. 

Maybe the slogan "fucking police" is just an error and 
should sound "fuck the police". I could go along with that, 
if the verb would be free of aggressive connotation. The 
dynamics of revolutionary aggression are only then 
trustworthy when they build up independently from 
individual sexual economies. I would not go along with an 
untrustworthy build-up of revolutionary violence. Let this 
be the business of the SWP UK leaflet sellers, who hailed 
the bulldozers in Belgrade as the early agents of proletarian 
rule when in fact their drivers were just paid hooligans as in 
Georgia completing the work of NATO bombing towards 
regime change. "Proletkult" was an artist collective 
searching for a way to communist society, not a positivist 
religion hailing repressive relations, e.g. of sexualised 
violence, sociologically present in the Soviet working-class 
of its time. 



56 



So, sexualising revolutionary violence is unacceptable an 
operation. The most progressive empirical approach which 
comes to my mind where the teachings of some political 
commissars in the Interbrigadas fighting for the Spanish 
Republic. According "the estetics of resistance" by Peter 
Weiss (1970s, written in German, available in Spanish 
translation since last year) a Swedish commissar gave 
lessons on how to masturbate with pleasure and without 
harming your body for male and female volunteers at work 
in the Spanish Civil War. The official aim of these courses 
was to eliminate the phenomena of prostitution behind the 
Republican lines, which was clearly identified as 
contradictory to communist principles. 

Consequently, there is no political point in promoting 
sexualised violence or violent sex. "Fuck the police" would 
then quite astonishingly be rather Christian a slogan, like 
"Love your enemy" or "Make love to those who beat you". 
This sounds more a conservative wife's recipe for keeping 
her family together. Actually, this is definitely abhorrent 
and not really a slogan fit for a monstrating with it through 
Novosibirsk. 

There is a problem about the use of English in the circles 
of Siberian artist vanguard in general. I have read about half 
a hundred posters, postcards and flyers of their making. 
They all try their luck at English. The economic 
motivations behind this are perfectly legitimate and 
understandable. However, to be honest, I did not come 
across a single English expression which was both 
grammatically and logically acceptable. Well there are nice 
misunderstandings and hilarious russicisms, such as calling 
a festival for contemporary cinema "festival for actual 



57 



kino". But when it comes to English prosaic texts by the 
Novosibirsk vanguard, my sense of humour feels somehow 
acutely over-exploited. Well, judging by some years of 
socialisation I am a German, as the two sisters at Omsk 
railway station legitimately insulted me (sorry folks, this is a 
complicated one again: less than half: 8 (if you do not count 
bourgeois holidays 17) of 35 full years, i.e. 1971-1995 with 
the exceptions 1977/1978 Italy, 1986/1987 Australia, 
1990/1991 France, 1994 Rumania). Consequently, my 
sense of humour should rather not become the guideline to 
set a local guillotine into operation. The trouble is rather 
that Russian copy-writers do not really seem to have a clue 
about the degree of dilettantism in their publications. How 
much is it to send an Email to an English native speaker 
and counter-check before printing a junk message several 
1000 times and sending it out to an applauding global 
audience? I can tell you, it is almost free. I go through this 
unpleasant step towards publishing whenever there is any 
English, Italian, Spanish, French, Polish or Russian word to 
come out of the printing machine I feel responsible for. 
The problem is not training or resources. The problem is 
that artist vanguard reproduces as a farce what happens in 
society as a tragedy. Half-educated middle-class machos 
have the controlling positions over cultural production and 
they have no sense of co-operating for reaching better 
quality. Major parts of their publicly exhibited creationism 
is unsocial, phallic in a Lacanian sense, that means in 
practice: boring. 



8. affluent gardens at the sources of river Ob 
So I stood in front of the railway station of Bijsk, the home 
town of Larissa on the last bit of railway tracks towards the 
Altaj (Altai) Montains. Their Massive hosts the Russian 



58 



border to China west of Mongolia. I waited for her to pick 
me up. In the meantime, I resolved to play the clarinet for 
money. It was for the first in my life. Both the trumpet and 
my new (in fact a 1 00 year old) violin had suffered 
demission at a final luggage check in Lena's Moscow flat. I 
was very excited playing for Roubles and thought my 
breath would faint any moment. It quivered, to be sure. But 
necessarily, you have to go through fits of uneasiness to 
learn to hold the tension of the air in any situation. There is 
no way around failure if there is to be failure for the 
beginning. You have to begin. 

I got loads of money. The poorer people live, the more 
they are liable to give in to sugared tea and music. I rather 
played unsugared cacao, i.e. Brecht-Eisler songs which 
nobody would know. They all know only Brecht-Weil 
songs, because on the opposite side of the globe, 
Hollywood made such a marketing decision in the 1940s 
and not another, basta. 

People would throw in either very small amounts down to 
single kopejki or generous donations of paper money. One 
ambulant newspaper seller threw in paper and wanted a 
chat. What should I do, I was grateful four his donation, he 
must have sold a lot of newspapers to earn such a sum. I 
was also grateful for the pause he decided against the urge 
of my pseudo-professional ambition. 
-"Where do you come from?" 
-"Baltic Sea." We had this one already 
-"Ah, Riga." He was a bright one. Before falling in the 
hands of a Latvian chauvinist minority, Riga was indeed a 
magnet for all-Soviet bohemia. I even met a Russian wall- 
painting "monumentilist" artist in Odessa in 1999, who had 
made a relief in memory of Jurij Gagarin in the Altaj region. 



59 



He could cry his eyes out for the lost companionship of his 
Riga youth. 

There was no beating about the bush with this one. I had 
to be a bit more responsible. Not wanting to speak about 
the personal qualities of Adolf Hider, I nevertheless choose 
to silence those damned 17 years in Germany. 
-"More south." I answered with a poker spirit. 
-"South, that is what? Lithuanian?" 
-"Don't you hear my Polish accent?" Damn, again, I was 
heading right into a lie. I do not like to lie to strangers. You 
never really know what comes out of it. It is much more 
comfortable to lie to close friends. You can tell right away 
how and what you risk. Well, I also feel bad with lies myself, 
sometimes. But that's another story. 
-"So you are a Pole?" 

-"Well, I have been living in Warsaw for the last decade." 
-"I see," he concluded, "you are Polish." People do not 
seem to have a clue what a bunch of German assholes has 
been living in poor Warsaw in the last century. For them it 
is all so easy going, this 20' century, if you live there, you 
are Polish. 

There was a silence. My friend Nicolas from Geneva had a 
double passport, Swiss and French. On travelling to 
Vietnam by rail and road in the 1990s, he learnt to keep his 
mouth shut about Switzerland. It is an unbecoming word 
for people's imaginative resources. In the best case they get 
you into chocolate, generally, you will be interviewed about 
banks and big money. But exposing a little hint at being 
French, it was suddenly all cinema, fashion, Paris, chansons, 
savoir vivre. I seriously considered to risk the Hitler 
conversation, now. Why play cat and mouse? But then I 
had a rare glimpse of sobriety. Hold on, I said to myself, 



60 



officially this guy paid for your music only, not for your 

talking. Why should I say anything at all. It was getting hot. 

-"You were living with your family, there?" This guy 

seemed to be really interested. . . as it appeared not only 

about labels and my position in the passport-based racist 

order in and around Europe. So, I decided to leave the 

defensive trenches and try to find answers which could 

surprise even me. 

-"No, I was living there with a woman I loved very much" 

-"Why did you come here then?" 

-"One day she told me that she would rather like me to go 

away. I had been west already, so I decided to move east 

this time." 

-"Why would she not like you any more?" 

-"It was not that. But she liked another one as well. In the 

first 4 months nothing needed to be changed, but then, she 

got a bit impatient. And her new lover was probably not a 

Communist either, that winter at least. I heard he even 

went on a bike tour allowing a third person later." 

-"So you are a Communist?" 

-"I try my best. Communism seems actually a bit far w 

away for a single party if you ask me. Presently, I would 

even throw in everything for Socialism, I am not against 

Anarchist methods." This was getting a monologue. The 

newspaper sellers wanted facts and not a revision of the 

split of the first International. So he returned to hardware. 

-"Where do you go?" That was an easy one for a change. 

-"Altaj, Kitaj." He passed an absorbing smile to me and 

continued with a very familiar voice, like a homeless to a 

homeless. 

-"Where do you sleep?" He had evidently not believed my 

destination. Altaj is expensive for travellers and Kitaj, ie. 

China without paying for another visa, needs a 4000 

kilometre trip around Mongolia, for there is no legal border 



61 



crossing on the Altaj plateau, up to more than 4000 metres 
above sea level. 

-"I know Larissa" I answered thoughtlessly, "she might put 
me up." Now, I had definitely become more sincere than I 
wanted to. Thinking why, I detected a slightly inconsistent 
intention to make up for the lie about my Polishness. I was 
not really sorry for him, actually, but somehow I was sorry 
for my Polish friend. I know that she extremely dislikes that 
story. As for the name I had betrayed, in a town of a 
quarter of a million telling a first name would probably not 
amount to a breach of conspiracy rules, would it? 
-"You will sleep with her?" Oh no, this gets boring, I 
thought as if watching a bridge collapse into water. 
-"I never thought about that." I answered and put in all my 
available concentration after 9 consecutive night trains 
from Praha Holosovice right to these doorsteps. I had no 
choice than to fix his sight with my glance, for evading his 
eyes with such an answer would have been worth no more 
than a giggle. It all worked perfectly well. This was the first 
lie to him I did enjoy. And to counter-balance, I continued 
with a sincere answer which did not fail to astonish myself, 
"I am more interested in what she wants." That was a good 
formula to cut his sexist talk short. And indeed, the 
conversation was over. My proletarian sponsor returned to 
his work, which I sincerely respected, not only for filling 
my purse. 

Taking up the clarinet play, I thought about reacting to all 
obsessive talking by nice people in this manner, with a mix 
of Tolstoj compassion and Babel short-hand. If a 
sympathetic anti-communist would again try to pump me 
up with "Hitler same as Stalin" small-talk, as my elderly 
acquaintances at Akademgorodok the day before, I would 
try to speak about the American administration today and 



62 



our prospects for the future. I marvelled at prefabricated 
sentences like "I am not so much interested in what you 
call Communism, but I am very curious which work you do 
like most on a building site." 

Anybody who has seriously worked for agitation knows 
that this is just as good a preparation as playing chess with 
three, continually changing sides. In a lively conversation, 
you would never literally retreat a horse or use a 
prefabricated sentence, but the element of movement and 
surprise, abstracting from the middle-class obsession to win 
a discussion personally can be trained indeed. Brecht would 
even make a fool of himself on stage just to let the 
audience have it all, including social truth in its most 
agreeable, materialist and dialectical elasticity. 

A train station official turned up and explained that any 
begging was severely forbidden around her train station. 
She did so in a loud voice. And then she continued in a low 
voice, that I should just bother to put away the money 
already earned. This is Russia how I like it. The sun was 
shining and there she came, Larissa. 

In the twilight of the evening, we were on the allotment of 
her parents. A whole valley of allotments was boasting and 
fertile, overloaded with berries, vegetables. I had come 
south, finally. Everything was whole again. I felt like Eva in 
her big towel after a cold bath. Soviet allotments are the 
most rational luxury on earth. It is just barbarian how 
Westerners drag their summer vegetables out of 
supermarkets. I am not speaking about the allotment banja 
now, for it was not on the agenda. Generally, I found out 
that Larissa had just as much puritanical drill as necessary 
to become very good friends. None of that malicious over- 
production your senses get insulted with in genuinely 



63 



puritanical countries like the Check Republic, England, or, 
beware, the Berlin alternative ghetto. We went home in 
dusk already, loaded with our harvest. There were little 
apples with humoresque red and yellow paintings, tomatoes 
which could be called lion hearts, but oxen hearts was all 
right as well and, of course, there were raspberries, 
raspberries as if to console the whole block with them. For 
the first time this year in Russia I felt something like warm 
summer ease, and my sentiment registered with a new kind 
of calm that cold dense rain set in that evening for the rest 
of the week. True, there had been some hours in the 
outskirts of Valdaj, some seconds in the Ural mountains on 
getting out of the train, where the sensuality of a wholeness 
of summer tended to culminate, but that was still 
comparatively a frosty ease. 

Of course, I am not talking about the climate, but about a 
years happiness, or questions of musical taste if you like. 
Maybe I thought, Katja and Larissa should be taken serious 
with their late-Wagnerian weakness, i.e. their lack of 
immunity against the movement in Rachmaninov. Did the 
charlatan not coax about a point in his concept of music, 
even when interpreting Chopin? Once you reach this point, 
he pretended all the consecutive steps flow like rivers down 
with ease. We know, that the music teacher of Hanno 
Buddenbrock, or was it Adrian Leverkuehne, would not 
admit such pilgrim's talk in an age of industry. Indeed, I get 
suspicious when the two are being combined. Who's 
working day gets distributed to whom in this transaction? If 
you want the non-understandable, do not accept it in the 
product form, mixed with heavy perfumery. Take 
Prokofiev, take Berg, head to the light, let the 
incomprehensible go through your senses at the peak of 
attention to the comprehensible. Face the absurdity of late 



64 



capitalism all the while trying to understand, to relate, to get 
clear of the mist. Death will break our hands, our senses 
anyway. Death will through us into a lack of clarity which 
will be enough for all and everything. As long as my senses 
allow to look straight, I will give my best to look straight, to 
have all our known instruments sharpened and the material 
ready for creating just those curves and detours which we 
socially need. Mist and perfume is a poor workmate on the 
building site. You can not even produce mist with mist and 
perfume with perfume. Look at the historic death of Rainer 
Maria Rilke. All his anesthetisations with artistic 
sublimation of death and decay were useless even in his 
own hands once it was getting materially serious for him to 
close his shop. He was unripe in spite of all his rituals 
simulating self-ripening. He even ran away from a well- 
meaning doctor. He had a pathetic and costly attempt at 
what my friend Nicolas does with the twist of a tongue: he 
left Geneva for Paris. Nobody wanted to hear his message 
in the post-war salons down there. According to rather 
embarrassed, friendly witnesses, he declaimed some 
dogmatic formulas about automatic writing and that was it. 
Nobody around him would believe or want to listen to 
such talk any more. The neo-Catholicist left the scene as 
mannerist as he has entered it 30 years before, a self-made- 
man of literary kitsch. No development, no movement, just 
consumption? 

Well, movement in Rahmaninov (Rachmaninoff ) . . . give 
me more time to find out what my friends really mean. In 
two years I can say more. But forgive me that in the 
meantime, when hitting on a Rahmaninov tune with my 
fiddle, I immediately start to laugh, because I find it funny 
now, funny and dangerous, not deep. 



65 



We made up a company of three to stroll through the rain 
and explore the town. Bijsk was the ending point for 
lazaretto trains from the battlefields of Europe, the Far 
East and Afghanistan. There are large complexes for 
military surgery. A considerable female proletariat worked 
in light industries, tobacco and garment. As for further 
details on the revolutionary history of our agreeable 
southern settlement at the feet of the Altaj mountains, my 
communist friend promised me to undo a long-standing 
deed, research and report on the results. 

For that night, the soviet apartment of Larissa's parents 
was shared half. One half remained for them and a 
detachable second half was for us. I thought that to be a 
fair arrangement. And I laughed at the idea what my 
parents would do with their affluence of hundreds and 
hundreds of square metres living space. They would 
probably file a complaint that our luggage was occupying 
too much space to allow them to move. My brother and my 
sister would do it in written. 

-"What are your plans?" 

-"Well, I came to see you. I see you now. I am quite 

satisfied." 

-"What did you want to see?" 

-"Where your faculties come from, where they leant to 

walk and speak so fluently. Actually, I was interested in that 

in the first place, even before trying to understand your life 

and your work in Moscow." 

-"And your plans?" I had no plans in this moment. How 

can you have no plans? Maybe I was just hiding them for 

the time being? Was I sincere not to have any eyes for them? 

Plans? Maybe I was right and there were no plans left as 

soon as the railway tracks ended which had brought me all 



66 



the way from Prague, i.e. Praha-Warszawa, Warszawa- 
Vilnius, Vilnius-Daugavpils, Daugavpils-Rezekne, Rezekne- 
Pskov, Pskov-Leningrad, Leningrad- Valdaj, Valdaj-Moscow, 
Moscow-Kazan, Kazan-Perm, Perm-Kyn, Kyn station- 
Kuzino, Kuzino-Sverdlovsk, Sverdlovsk-Omsk, Omsk- 
Novosibirsk, Novosibirsk-Bijsk. That was it. I had maybe 
some further directions prepared, but they were not so 
much a continuation as a set of emergency exits: to allow to 
run away from an eventual collision which would not do 
good for any party involved. Many Russians have a nice 
sensitivity for collisions. In their understanding, it is 
actually not a metaphor taken blundy from street traffic but 
rather from the stage. To the contrary, an accident, that can 
happen to you on the street is the same as what happened 
to Chernobyl at three o'clock in the night of the 26' of 
April 1986. In Russian, that this not a collision but "avaria", 
something quite different, more technical, less tragic. A 
major fond of knowledge about collisions is actually theatre. 
Now, there is a little black spot in our understanding of 
theatre. When Visocki sang about being a prisoner of the 
Taganka scene in Moscow, having so utterly lost his reason 
"tvoj bessumny arrestant" he did not really take care to 
make it quite clear which theatre at the Taganka he had in 
mind, for there are actually two. One is the best in town, 
one is a nuisance altogether. Actually, Larissa does agree 
with me on this assessment. The problem is, that we would 
not be able to figure out, whether we meant the same 
theatre with the same verdict or whether or aims on 
Moscow evenings were just literally juxtaposed during all 
those days we lived next to each other in this megalopolis, 
crossed ways half a dozen times each day and would not 
care a penny about the other. Therefore, when I talked to 
Larissa in rapture about the new productions of Berthold 
Brecht and Peter Weiss, she would watch me with a certain 



67 



reservation. All the while, I would not spare the other 
house from throwing mud at. A petty-bourgeois nightmare, 
I called it for it had afflicted me with a seriously irritation 
about Cehov (Chekhov) himself, when, by fatal error, I 
happened to stumble into a production stifling unbearably 
under illustrafionistic tsarist requisites and unreflected 
conventions. 

-"Something is going wrong" she would say with a very 
general air. 
-"Why?" 

-"Your favourite theatre does not play what my favourite 
theatre plays and the one you do not like does not play 
anything my favourite theatre plays either." I guessed that 
we would probably not be able to figure that out from the 
distance of 4000 railway kilometre. Visible, I wanted to 
dilute down any possible collision between us in time and 
space, though, the possibility of it happening one day was 
lingering, 1:1 you could say. We fixed each other with our 
eyes. 

-"And your plans now?" She was right to recall me. I had 
to present something, to take the strain of hosting me from 
her for the case she did not enjoy it. She had come home 
after a year of work, she had gone through a concise 
railway week to do so. I had granted her exactly 30 hours to 
have a rest from Moscow finally. Before catching up and 
colonising her free time again. To make the trouble round, 
she still had to finish some work left over through the 
internet. 

To be frank, personally, for having a rest from Moscow, I 
sometimes took months and it was not enough. She would 
be returning to Europe, to a measureless workstrain within 
just 20 precious days. It was not that she actually intended 
to lie down on the canape. Her home flat was just to be the 



68 



base for extensive excursions. There were all the colleagues 
from university, 5 years back. I guess everybody of them 
had at some point or another damned the Siberian province 
and wished to be in Moscow. Maybe their moaning for 
something less cold, less backwaterish were not as desolate 
as those of the three sisters which Chechov managed to 
portrait from his ways to Sahalin (Sakhalin). 70 years of 
socialist development have changed a lot. Take the factual 
capital Novosibirsk, e.g. Novosibirsk did actually not exist 
on a map some 110 years ago. Cehov mentions a lot of 
water when crossing the Ob, he does not mention the 
hamlet Novonikolaevsk, a predecessor in a certain sense. 
But the 19' century Novonikolaevsk compares to 
Novosibirsk today like one of those a little ambitious 
scientific article of Lenin to the work of the Russian 
Revolution. 

Still, Russian provincial life rotates around a certain set of 
axes. I already mentioned one of them, gulanie. Another 
one of these axes is definitely getting out. To be sure, some 
of Larissa's colleagues from Bijsk have made it, to Barnaul, 
even to Novosibirsk. But virtually nobody except for her 
has made it to Europe and Moscow. There are a set of 
questions to be answered each summer on returning and a 
set of friendships to be renewed, which is not so easy. You 
come back home after a year and you do not meet the same 
people any more. Same for all the relatives up in the 
mountains. Though, grandma has been tormenting her for 
the last decade to get married with as little changes as she 
had success. No way of bringing a Germ up there. She 
would just explode with good wishes for a future neither of 
us wanted to be that simple. 



69 



I smiled to myself when hearing about some of Larissa's 
relatives originating from the Altaj mountains, the very 
heart and centre of Asia. There is a whole poem by Anna 
Ahmatova (Akhmatova) just about the "eyes of Asia". 
Ahmatova wrote it when she was evacuated from the 
German blockade of Leningrad to spend the war years here, 
precisely among the people who had come down from the 
Altaj Mountains. Maybe I cheat my memory, but I imagine 
to have thought about these lines from the first times 
onwards, when I first saw her, long before I dared to 
intrude as much as to ask whether there was maybe still 
something else to be important in her life than just Moscow. 
Well, just Moscow, funny expression. Moscow can be 
understandably everything! Just by size it's more than three 
times the whole of the Czech republic comprising its 
conservative nest of cute little cosmopolitanism, Prague. 
-"Your plans?" she insisted. I felt cornered. . . and took the 
escape path. 

-"I want to hitch-hike though the Altaj mountains. Later I 
go to China." Well, there had been such plans indeed, but 
that was so far away. I was quite impressed at my casual 
tone, simulating that I was someone travelling with ease. 

Ease and travel is a genuinely simulated connotation. I once 
was a guest on an ecological farm for avocadoes in 
Southern Spain and found a comrade in arms for this 
painstaking issue. Nine said, that she would sometimes like 
to just stuff the mouths of German burgers when they start 
their domestic chants of simulated envy. "Well, your life 
doesn't know such gravity, you are a travelling type. For 
you, the sun is always shining. If not, you just travel to the 
place where it is. And you seem to have loads of friends. 
None can hurt you. You loose a friend, you continue your 
life -long trip and get friends with another one." You are a 



70 



travelling type, I repeated to myself and could not figure 
out why now this made stroll my imagination through 
unfathomable voids of human contact in the Ural 
mountains. Now I recognised that inner voice. It was the 
ticket collector from Kyn station, "you are a travelling type. 
That's the sort which contracts AIDS first. How disgusting 
to sleep with such a person, even if you use a condom. 
That's not what I love." Blasted, for such people Friedrich 
Nietzsche's travelling to Italy and contracting syphilis is one 
and the same incidence. How do they imagine our 
travelling to be like, I ask myself. Personally, I have never, 
never had sex with anybody I met while travelling. If you 
are not out for buying, cheating or violating, sex simply 
does not happen when travelling seriously. It is not an issue. 
There is all kinds of closeness. Maybe a kind of closeness 
the burger never sees and feels and to be honest does not 
want to see and feel, really. But not that kind of closeness 
you would actually risk a pregnancy for or, well, sexually 
infectious diseases. Somehow, the Pfahlburger gets 
seriously mixed up what is to happen on his and her 
domestic little holiday with the back seat of their car, a 
hotel distracting their kids and regular meals. This is one 
world and they seem to quietly assume the other one 
completely opposed to be just of the same making. That is 
the reason for all their stupid talk about the "one world" 
throughout the damned 1990s. Among other fatal 
misunderstandings, they are positively convinced that the 
life you have to lead when throwing in one continent for 
another is just like theirs, just a little bit more free, more 
ideal, more holiday-like. Can they understand what it means, 
when you are materially forced to be spitting on your 
upbringing, your school, your privileges, your prejudices 
just to be able to survive as a social being, come out of the 
ordeal of travelling as someone who is still able to relate 



71 



somehow, perceive and react to other's needs and not only 
buy food, buy peace, buy company, an egomania machine 
for cross-cultural consumption. 

Take my best friend from school for example, 
unconventionally Danish, though with astonishing 
bourgeois sophistication. She has actually taught me how to 
make love out of a fond of experience I could only marvel 
at then and now. However, I cannot remember her 
characterising any of her children with her long-standing 
lover of the past decade as being planned. Try such a 
strategy when relating in another continent and you will be 
quite ruined for your life within a fortnight. Luckily for my 
horizons always tending to get terribly narrow in the course 
of the years by uncouth and dogmatic principles and the 
fervent desire to betrayal my class origin at least if I really 
cannot strip it off like the skin of a snake, she keeps me up 
to date with how the established world of German middle 
classes chooses to dispose of its nauseating purchasing 
power. "Holidaymaking" she would declare with a sly irony, 
"is just a shameful word for having all-day- all-night sex." 
Sometimes I ask myself, whether I could actually return and 
live in that country any more. Every a few years or so, I try 
it out for some time, even for two weeks or less. It works. 
You can actually boil all your senses down, start again, 
repair that bicycle you left there on the last day of school. 
Well, school continued for another month but I would not 
care, I was off to France already, studying handbooks about 
gardening in the tropics with a fervour maybe as if to get 
the satisfaction out of Tolstoyian work, which my class of 
origin casually associates with, yes with holidaymaking 
maybe. I sought for Tolstoj (Tolstoy) and found Orwell, 
down and out. I did not find a lot of satisfaction to be sure. 
I found monstrous contradictions, frustration, depression, 



72 



shortage of money, comrades, new work, nothing stable, 
nothing reliable - a world to devour you and be devoured. 
To put a thousand turning points straight, I found the 
reality of contemporary Capitalist class war. I approached it 
from two sides, to be sure. For in many respects its reality 
is by far too brutal to be continually snobbish about the 
wrong side of your upbringing. 

-"Fine" she resumed into my thoughts. "I planned to move 
around in the next days, so I could not put you up any 
more anyway. Where are you going in the Altaj Mountains?" 
I was glad she had interrupted me. This was heading 
towards an unsupportable hermeneutic of self- 
commiseration again. Now was the time to confess, that my 
travelling was based on a map of the scale 1 :4 million. My 
Ural experience was e.g. perfectly localisable within a tiny 
square centimetre of that table-flooding giant piece of 
paper. Mind, that it showed only western Siberia, not even 
lake Bajkal, as someone had quite recently presumed from a 
Carpathian perspective. I could divine from that outer 
space perspective on Siberia, that the Higher Altaj Republic 
alone was greater than the whole of what I know from 
Germany. Its capital, Gorno-Altajsk was marked just on the 
northern border at the exit of one of the few valleys 
accessible to road traffic from the Siberian plains. The 
population of that capital did not considerably outnumber a 
thousandth piece of Moscow and would be housed 
comfortably in one single modest street of the Federal 
Capital. We exchanged some opinions on what the map 
revealed and what it did not reveal. 

-"It is all very far apart up there," Larissa warned me. I did 
get some occasion to remember these words of her during 
the following days. 

-"Normally, you only go up there in good company, don't 
you?" I inquired exploringly. I still believe that my question 



73 



was quite innocent. I would rather not want to suggest that 
Larissa's duties for her guest extended over a terrain 
comparable to the extensions of Western Europe. Quite 
probably, I rather wanted to calm my bad conscience. 
Maybe again, I thought that my planning to go there alone 
stemmed from my class origin, the selectively blind 
individualism of Western German provincial middle class. I 
knew that it was materially based on the deception that we 
think we can master what we can purchase with our 
currency. On the other side, I had been hearing soviet 
stories about Altaj expeditions for years and years which 
were always, always done in company. The uncle of Elena 
from Irkutsk had presumably drunk from a little standing 
water in the forests and not recognized in time that a dead 
animal was polluting the source. He had died three days 
afterwards. On a dark early autumn night in 2002, just 
south of Riga, I was addressed by a Siberian who 
recognised that my linen rucksack was a standard soviet 
model. "That is the one, I took for walking in the Altaj 
Mountain range in those soviet years." He exclaimed in a 
very unlatvian, cosmopolitan soviet friendliness. "So you 
do not go there any more now", I asked with rising interest. 
"No way," he answered, "there are people specialised in 
picking up excursionists and you can be happy if they spare 
your life." Indeed a week later, I heard about an Omsk 
journalist who got killed just for some cash a few valleys 
away from where I slept in the green. Yet, I had asked 
Larissa about companies preparing themselves for 
excursions into the area mainly to get her benediction for 
my individualist plans, I guess. I wanted to hear from her 
simply a warning assurance. "Go, but be careful", 
something of that sort. But she would not say that. Instead, 
she would think so intensely, consider, reconsider, that I 
could almost feel the physiological side of the process near 



74 



me. Oh no, I thought. Don't do that! Don't declare you will 
go with me just because you feel sorry for my naivete. You 
have not allowed me to do the washing up, "because guest 
do not wash at our place". That's bloody patriarchy. You 
have not told me that you are tired of Moscow and 
European acquaintances and the lot, though I see it in the 
movements of your eyes. You have given enough. Don't do 
that. 

-"Listen," she said after a long process, taking a final 
decision. 

-"Listen, in four days I will take you to a place in the woods 
near a river. My friends will be there, very good friends, my 
best friends actually. We organise a training camp for the 
Communist party youth. I take you with me. Be back in 
four days and we will go together." 
I had no words. I would not even start to dissuade her 
German-style: but maybe you should think about it, do you 
really want me there? You say your best friends. It does not 
take a very subde faculty of observation to know that I am 
not one of them. Not yet. Why do I call that German-style? 
Am I really entitled to dump so much shit on a country I 
haven't really cared for in a decade? 

When the friend of my heart, Oliver, came back to 
Heidelberg after a year in the United States around 1987, he 
met an old acquaintance in the city centre. I can vividly 
imagine him retranslating the warm American words "How 
are you?" into the German he was relearning and stretching 
out to shake hands. Any civil American, even after having 
received a cancer diagnosis would shake hands warmly and 
answer with a smile over the whole face "I am fine, thanks, 
and you?" They do not only say so because they respect 
you. There is a bit more to it. Who has spent a winter in 
New York climate knows that these people could not 



75 



possibly make it there just with that one powerful faculty to 
kill Indians and advance the white race west. That might 
take you through the autumn, but not through an East 
coast winter. So they have got this peculiar sentimentality 
about Thanksgiving. I know it is all messed up in a mass of 
plastic, now. The most prominent mass murderer of 
present days releases a turkey from the zoo in Washington 
taking his willing combat sponsors to tears, while tens of 
millions of its equals are slaughtered by fully automatic 
machines, processing and deep-freezing their corpses 
within seconds for just the same occasion, filling the tables 
of national Thanksgiving, adding another heap of affluence 
to a mindless affluence which is capable of killing our 
equals all over the globe, not only in Iraq. But there is that 
sentimental kernel about Thanksgiving and none of my 
hatred for the so-called "American way of Life" and its 
deadly consequences can wipe that it in my consciousness. 
The first settlers from Europe in New England were poor 
underdogs really, spat out from one of the cruellest class 
societies of modern times with nothing to cling to than 
crazy religious principles. They were actually dying a slow 
death of starvation in their praised "New World". With 
their religious idiocy alone, they would never have made it 
until next spring. They were in terrible need of a helping 
hand and their white God's one would somehow not take 
the trouble to do anything. So they had to take and shake 
the hands of beings, they utterly comprehended: Indians, 
redskins, devil like creatures with eyes acutely similar to 
those overlooking today's Altaj, to those in front of me at 
the kitchen table, actually. Oliver put his hand forward out 
of New-Wordly custom and amiability. His friend stepped 
back and said a very upper-class German sentence, which is 
basically untranslatable: "Man gibt sich die Hand?" I cannot 
even tell whether she was really upper class. Some of the 



76 



dead language of the Goethe/Schiller classics can actually 
be picked up in German high school if you are a willing 
climber. I cannot translate that, however. It could have 
meant something close to "What the hell is the reason for 
your being so bloody friendly after that year, you interested 
bastard?" Here I sat as far away from Heidelberg as our 
beloved New York. So I did not even bother to translate 
the fingerprints of my German socialisation into Russian 
that night. However I still wondered slightly, what had 
made Larissa consider this invitation so lengthily and what 
had really made her invite me in the end. Eventually the 
transmutations of this initial curiosity was the source of 
endless misunderstandings and, to be honest, an infectious 
sadness in an emotional and prospective sense. Politically, it 
was the conclusion of a long-standing promise, the one 
given to me by a jobless Pravda journalist to the day 15 
years before. I was eager to follow the line. 

All the while, the political police units of lower Altaj 
charged with repressing anti-capitalist potentials wherever 
they show up were akeady spinning a net of investigation 
and informants to locakse the rebel camp and destroy its 
contagious potential. The forests of Russia may be spacious, 
but they are not free terrain to stroll in kberally. The last 
seasons have seen the crack-down on a genuinely anti- 
poktical forest reverie called "the ferry temple". In the 
Anglo-Saxon world ferries have become a code name and a 
dress code for insinuatingly makgnant anti-capitakst 
protesters. I remember the nights in the Scottish pokce cell, 
when my ceU neighbour was driving his jail masters mad 
with the chant "But you arrested me for hugging a fairy!" 
He had bloody blocked a road around the G8 and 
subsequently resisted arrest. 



77 



Russian ferries are not quite that clever in their way to 
attack the hardly fairy- friendly world of Capital reign. They 
only retreat. . . into the Russian woodlands. There they meet, 
hundreds of them, put on their true wings and fluffy 
dressings, wave their silk and emanate their obnoxious 
perfumes. It is as if they were living a life of disguise for the 
rest of the year just to breathe the air of pure and sweetish 
ventilation in remote settings for some precious, fulfilling 
weeks of summer idle. They build wooden castles, relate to 
princes of the tales named after them and swarm about in 
fluffy flocks of hundreds. Well, this might be actually quite 
funny. However with the exception of two groups which 
are not negligible in the story. In the first place, it is not 
funny for the fairies themselves and it is definitively not 
funny for the Russian police forces. 

Instead of being let to realise a summer long collective 
orgasm of escapism the last big fairy gathering in Russia has 
become a sea of tears. Special anti-riot forces cracked down 
on the event, localised operationally by helicopters and 
ground control in a paramilitary operation. The wooden 
castle was destroyed and the elements arrested to be put to 
a treatment as if they were a resurrection of the 
Decembrists, executed by the Russian autocracy one and a 
half centuries earlier. All this, I did not know by that time. 

I did know that Gasprom had passed firmly into partly 
control of German capital and that it was indeed high time 
to associate on the other side of the barricade as well. 

I mentioned, that us two generations shared the tiny flat 
sovereignly that night. Larissa's sister was out in the 
mountains, so we had our half for ourselves. I got the bed 
of her sister, where Larissa had slept in after her 4 day train 



78 



ride from Moscow and Larissa herself moved on to the 
next room on a canape. It reminded me of my brother and 
me once before we dissolved our friendship stemming 
from our childhood just a year ago. He and me would 
always move out of our bed for our guest. "Siberians love 
to sleep softly" Cehov wrote a century ago. He was 
damned true wherever I got. So I lay in her bed like in 
mountains of raspberries. Through the open door I could 
hear Larissa breathing. Somehow, I must have forgotten 
that my place of birth is 6000 km west. I strangely felt to be 
right there, i.e. just in the place I had been born to that 
many years ago. So on the next day, I readily got onto a bus 
towards China, gaining the Altaj heights. 



9. a night of compulsory adoration 

I cannot help the feeling to want to narrate the days in the 
Altaj heights as briefly and quickly as possible to come back 
to the plains, Bijsk, my comrade. I was as if put on a 
waiting loop, yet in one of the most fascinating places of 
the earth. Time was short and efficient transport asphalt- 
bound. So the first 32 hours were actually a nightmare of 
running to gain access. There would be hardly any break to 
the cold rain the first day. I would never see anything else 
than the feet of mountains, all the rest was covered in 
clowds. Nauseatingly disappointed, I stumbled across the 
rural trifles of the capital settlement at the entrance gate to 
the Plateau. It was not yet 3 o'clock in the afternoon local 
time and the days motion had akeady collapsed. No bus 
any more. No answer to any practical question. Time-table? 
Reservation? Alternative transport? Guesthouse? 
Something different to eat than fast- food? I simply could 
not get any answer whatsoever. The Altaj majority was 



79 



socialising visibly among itself and the few Russians I could 
get hold of seemed to be day-dreaming and counting sheep 
in some realms of federal elision. I don't know what you 
feel when a Russian answers to a basic question, lets say 
about the meaning of a notice board saying "hotel" above 
his door "bez ponjatija (without a clue, thanks Shirley for 
correcting this one, too)". I just feel helpless. What can you 
say to abuse him? Nothing than to repeat his words. "My 
dear friend, you seem to be without a clue." That is not 
satisfactory. A potential victim for swear-words who tells 
you everything you could tell him in a bad temper with his 
own calm words is just too much for a raging stranger. So I 
took to medieval practice. I circled around the central bus 
stop seven times widdershins and seven times shins, asking 
randomly everybody about everything which was on my 
mind. And finally, I understood a bit more. There was a 
little car going up on 1500 m heigt, passing mountain 
ranges rising far above 3000 metres. Its trail to one of the 
rajon centres in the south-east was to last some 10 hours 
and transgress some 800 km, the last part remaining 
entirely without asphalt. Ust-Ulagan was to be a boring 
outpost of Russian colonialism with native Altaj people 
endemically drinking and beating up foreigners to come to 
money. The only way out of this hell of criminality and 
untameable wilderness by public transport was to return 
exactly the way I would go first, no other connection to the 
world around, no public through-traffic, no guarantee of a 
place to sleep. I threw in a breathtaking proportion of my 
pocket/money and bought a single ride ticket up there. 
"You do not want to reserve a place to come down again?" 
the ticket seller asked with disbelieve. "No," I pretended, I 



http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%DQ%A3%Dl%81%Dl%8 
2%D1%8C - %D0%A3%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B3%D0%BQ%D0%BD 

80 



will be quite comfortable hitch-hiking further towards 
Mongolia. My counterpart visibly gave up my case and sold 
me the ticket for the next morning mechanically. My 
luggage alone was checked in for the price of some 12 adult 
passenger tram rides in the town of Bijsk. I had delivered 
my throat to the outmost edge of the Russian nightmare 
and I was determined to be happy with it. As for the rain, I 
had little worries. Rumours had it that everything above 
2500 meters was already covered in thick, new autumns' 
snow now, on 10th of August, and this snow was not to 
melt again until end of July next year, according to 
authoritative locals. It would just descend further down 
now, they assured with the deep voices of an Altaj 
shamanist oracle. 

I could not find any 

hotel, though there were quite some signs announcing 
them. In the end, I got the footpath description of a state 
guesthouse for kids whom nobody would let further into 
these mountains to learn something about their fragile 
ecology there. The path lead over a wild river by the help of 
a hanging bridge. To reach the bridge, I had to go half a 
kilometre downstream and then go upwards again. If this 
was the capital, I was not in the mood to figure out what its 
province would look like. But before closing my eyes to 
dive into it, I wanted to have a last, civilised sleep, 
something like white linen and evening reading of 
Kropotkin's expeditions into unknown Manchuria. This, as 
I would learn later, was a vain hope. There was no sleep for 
me that night. It all started very occasionally, like a stupid 
little affair. Checking in after a prolonged walk through the 
rain, I noticed that the registering Altaj, was actually quite 
young. She would be very formal though. It was only 4 
o'clock but the rain was dense as a continual shower and 



81 



there was no use bumping about under those clouds. I got 
myself drippingly into the room, given to me, put the table 
in front of the window and started to learn Chinese 
vocabulary. I love to learn Chinese vocabulary as much as 
fiddling dilettantely on my violin. I discovered my 
extraordinary liking for these two past-times right when my 
Polish friend started to date with her new lover for weeks 
without coming back to our joint flat. She would not always 
tell me with whom, but she always told me where she was 
going, to a romantic wood, to the island of Wolin. To 
Hamburg, to Kiel. I was tied to the flat then, forced to 
finish a work which I could not even support to look at. 
And for two months I did hardly anything else I can 
remember except for trying to learn Chinese vocabulary 
and fiddling from 6 in the morning to 10 at night. When I 
had to be afraid to get a reasonable complaint about this 
dilettante fiddling, I would escape to the Vistula river and 
take to torture the ears of by-passers. Quite funnily, it 
hardly occurred to me that my dilettantism on the violin 
could be actually insulting. I liked it immensely. The sheer 
traumatic vagueness in which the cords scratched by my 
bow responded to my clumsy finger play corresponded 
perfectly with my vision of the world in ruins. Let me just 
get free of this damned workload, I told myself and I will 
take to China. "Taking to China" was about as false as my 
play. I had no friends there, no contacts, no clue how to get 
around there. I did not even know a dozen of signs or 
words with which to communicate basically. I told you that 
I learned for six or eight hours without breaks. Indeed, I 
employed various techniques, exploited my pleasure in 
brushwork to cheat my way to writing through calligraphic 
exercises, I read aloud, Heard hundreds of hours of 
Chinese recordings, many of them corresponding to my 
lessons. I consulted a private teacher twice a week. But the 



82 



effect was close to nothing. My head would immensely 
enjoy to be filled up with signs and sounds, movements 
and pronunciations of this distant language, yet somehow 
overnight, it would empty itself mysteriously as if 
continually pissing it all out again onto my bedclothes. I did 
not feel the slightest unease with this balanced nothingness. 
It was the perfect reflection of my emotional failures, 
accumulated over a decade. Fiddling without reaching tones 
and learning Chinese without remembering words were the 
comforting guiding stars of my tacit exasperation. All the 
time in the silent rooms of a full Warsaw summer, I would 
not be able to do a stroke of the work which I had to do. 
Deadline was drawing closer like a gentle warm summer 
flood streaming around my throat. Well, I had one other 
activity which could absorb me for some hours a day, 
which was letter-writing to the most fundamentalist 
Protestant Berlin Lesbian I have ever known. Once she 
told me on the telephone that she would not bother to 
answer these letters as agreed before, because she had the 
suspicion that I was only writing them to publish them later 
as a book. I was a bit disappointed that her literary taste 
was so modest, that she might believe that actually anybody 
wanted to print or read such texts if they were not written 
precisely for him or her. Well, these letters were precisely 
written for him or her and they missed the point 
completely. I had realised that by the time I came to 
number 43. I desperately wanted to communicate with 
someone and in the end only my fiddle seemed to respond 
to my efforts. I cannot describe these months as being 
unhappy. I rarely succeeded in reaching such an 
ambitionless tete-a-tete with nothingness in my life before. 

There was a knock at the door. The Altaj receptionist 
entered politely with delicate and a bit demonstrative 



83 



movements. She saw the new arrangement of the table, 
walked past smiling and quietly put down some bed cloth. 
"As in a train, you know" she would declare, cryptically. 
Only after I had heard this formula three more times 
through the corridor, each time another guest for the night 
got his room, I understood that she was explaining a little 
lazy caprice of her own. She imagined a hotel like the one 
she was working for to provide bedclothes being prepared 
for the guests already. Her formula "As in a train, you 
know" never changing and uttered with an air as if to 
excuse herself meant that she was not prepared to do what 
she herself thought to be her duty. Excused her as well. 
There is no problem in having some 5 minutes of work for 
your own well-being. I am actually opposed to any notion 
of service. My senses are vibrating with satisfaction when I 
encounter the last species of careless waiters and guest 
house personal in the Eastern hemisphere. Once, being 
unfriendly to your guests in public places was a class 
privilege of a whole army of waiters and hotel personal 
who worked independently of the fits and feelings of their 
clients. They did not need to care. Capitalist reinvention of 
their working role as a serving role has changed this 
fundamentally. Smiles out of financial loyalty are a 
nightmare actually, for those who receive them and for 
those who issue them. I often dream of the time when 
revolution will introduce a new functional rudeness in all 
former servicing trades. This was a bit too much theory for 
one young Altaj housekeeper. I actually failed to register in 
how far her behaviour was far from servile or not servile. 
Looking back later, I registered in how far it was schematic 
and not reactive to the situation. This should have given me 
a warning, but I would not heed to it then. 



84 



Back alone with my bedclothes prepared for the night and 
still halfway to go in time through the Chinese lesson, I felt 
actually quite grateful for this failed summer when I started 
courses. Maybe real break-downs can only happen in the 
midst of fulfilment. The long-standing austere absence of 
fulfilment lacks the critical emotional mass to generate any 
movement, including anything of the sort of a break-down. 
So just a 1000 mountainous kilometres in front of the year- 
long aim, China, I halted to re-hibernate into the mindless 
void of my knowledge of Chinese. After 10 o'clock at night, 
I dived up again from this state with difficulty and the 
feeling of pity, as if my mother had dragged me out of the 
sand-pitch by force (what she rarely did). My mother did 
not even pressure me to go to kindergarten in time. She 
allowed me to brawl around for hours in the morning, 
forgetting myself in endless slopes of play, imagination and 
boredom, take false ways and detours of a truly escapist 
dimension. She would kindly wait for me to live my fits to 
their very end and return, satisfied, to the gardens of peer 
sociability, which I actually quite enjoyed once I was there. 
Oh, follies of bourgeois upbringing! My mother taught me 
how to stroll into a sunny day with nothing on my mind 
than an illuminating stupor of vague apprehension. What I 
understood then, I could not tell. I was wordless, my 
mother used to say. She observed me how I had something 
seemingly important on my mind but could not tell which 
made me go red and blue with rage and exasperation. Not 
having the words for it is a basic horror, I know to be 
inscribed into my nerves. It might actually be conneted 
with my father never being around but that is post-factum 
speculation. The only thin I lean from the suspicion is not 
to be absent as my father was absent. He was a notorious 
traveller to China, by the way, one of those theoretically 
negligent Maoists populating assistant jobs of Western 



85 



German Universities in the 1970s. So I had a problem with 
finding words but I had almost no exterior problem with 
finding time. I was granted time as only kings and princes 
might have been granted time in the past. I think many 
children got what I got, the astonishing material well-being 
of the 1970, never to return after the destructions of 
Thatcherism, Reagenomics a peculiar imitation, the 
"geistig-moralische Wende" of doctor Helmut Kohl. 

I got time and freedom in hilarious dimensions. But my 
mother did not teach me a single time how to wipe a floor, 
how to tighten canvas, how to chalk the fond of an oil- 
painting, though she is a painter by trade and training. 

I got to sleep, I meant it. I was tired of being with myself. 
To tell the truth, after Bijsk I felt terribly lonesome. 

But sleep was not meant for me that night. I started to 
understand that when the door suddenly opened without so 
much as a knocking and the light was turned on to a full 
and hurting brightness. 

"What is that?" a voice shouted at me. I startled. "I fine 
you!" She repeated her cry as if dealing out strokes with a 
whip on my half awoken body. "Straf, straf, straf ' she 
assured herself. I asked why and foumd out that she had 
already met her aim, my voice was too late. She had already 
reassured herself with the sheer mechanical violence her 
delicate body was able to produce. "You have moved the 
table, that's forbidden. I will make you pay, I can tell you." 
The following three hours were a failure on my part. I 
reached with calm hatred to her assault. That was exactly 
what she did not want. She wanted either breathless hatred, 
such as hers or calm adoration. Nothing in between. She 
would not act in any way acceptably again until I accepted 



86 



this tacit rule of hers. I reminded her, that she had seen the 
arrangement at 7 o'clock in the evening and could have said 
a word, couldn't she? She would not give in a millimetre. I 
required a written document saying that moving a table 
from a to b inside the rooms is liable to a fine. She went 
away and I thought that there was probably some peace to 
be found before negotiations would reassume in the early 
morning. She knew that my bus was leaving very early and 
that it was the only one in the whole day. So she would 
probably use this card. Strangely enough, I did not register, 
that she had already handed back my passport. I calculated 
how much she would take until letting me go. After half an 
hour she stumbled into my room again, this time without 
putting on the light. She carefully arranged a sheet of paper 
on which she had just made up new rules and new fines on 
her reception computer. I was quite amused at this playful 
mistake of hers. She issued documents without a director's 
signature. That could take the air out of her attack. I told 
her so when going to the toilet. The toilets had a strange 
notice as well. Forbidden to be used between 6:00 o'clock 
in the morning and 23:00 o'clock at night. Maybe she had 
done all these new rules in one go. There was something 
clearly uncanny in her stile of administration. Furthermore, 
she would not sleep, she would walk around, in and out. I 
decided to cut a long story short and to silently lift the table 
back again where it stood. It was all so easy. I lay down and 
looked at the ceiling. How much aggression was there in 
this woman under the thin egg-peal of false, schematic 
nicety. I felt a bit like after a light traffic accident, not a 
collision but surely a moderate avaria. It took her an hour 
before she returned to my case. Same procedure. Enter 
without knocking, turning on the light. Now she cried at 
the pitch of her voice. "You have put the table back. How 
can you. You had no right to do so." And she continued 



87 



with a lament, for now surely, the whole guest/house was 
awake. "I want to sleep at night" she wailed. "And you 
make it impossible. How can you dare and shift a table in 
the middle of the night! I will not register you. I will not 
register you until you pay the fine you deserve. I will see to 
that." I felt that she was loosing ground. She had no prove 
any more. The table was at its normal place. She did not 
even have my passport any more as I noticed now. She 
would not have raised the side issue of registration if she 
had had such a powerful weapon in her hand as 
withholding my passport. Without a passport in Russia, you 
are reduced to nothing. You cannot buy a ticket, you 
cannot pass a police control, you cannot leave luggage, you 
cannot change money, you are immobilised and you have 
to prepare for extreme humiliation. She could not do that 
to me. I saw it clearly now, that the factual side of the 
conflict was won. I wondered whether she would get any 
fine money pout of me at all. The affair had tuned into a 
sportive contest and I had a hearty laugh for every new 
offensive. When she came in for a remake, turned on the 
light and approached my bedside where my tormented 
body was learning to lie indifferent under the beats of her 
voice, I had a sudden idea. "Maybe" I guessed "You have 
fallen in love with me. I could help you then." I wondered 
what I had in mind with 'help you'. But she was retorting 
simultaneously. "No you, you," she cried "You have fallen 
in love with me." This was kindergarten, then. It acutely 
reminded me of a strive between two friends in 1976 where 
one started singing, that her parents had a camper van and 
the other one's parents hadn't. I remembered my resolution 
on obsessive talk and answered. "I do not know yet 
whether I love you, but I can find out." 
-"How will you find out?" 



88 



-"I will paint a portrait of you. Then I will be able to tell 
you. 

-"You mean you will find out whether I am beautiful?" Oh 
goodness, she was so full of complexes and so unripe. It 
hurt me physically. "No, I explained calmly. It is rather the 
other way round. You know, if I would love, I would love 
your body just as your character." Funnily enough, this 
brought her back on the barricades. "So object to my 
character, yes. Well, I cannot help you. That is the way I am, 
I am tough, I am a beast of toughness. Take that!" "I like 
whoever I love to be tough and smart. What comes out 
when I paint you is more complicated. When I paint badly, 
I have a fancy. When I paint well, I look from a distance 
and not much can harm me. That is the way to find out." 
"O.k." she said simply and I followed her into her 
reception room. 

There was a litde bit of a calculating spirit behind this 
abracadabra. I felt that the night's sleep had gone down the 
drain anyway and I knew that I had 10 canvasses, which is a 
lot for 4 days when you travel something close to 2000 km. 
From Cuban nights I had learned, that my old Cuban 
formats, done in November 2003 had a very lucky chalk- 
linseed oil consistence. Such canvas does half of the 
painting. You can let go, every caprice is good enough to 
keep the brushstrokes light. I felt confident and 
professionally inspired by all that circus over the better half 
of the night. There were 4 hours left. I worked with my 
eyes now and paid little attention on de-conspirating her 
previous attack. Her cabinet reminded me of a mineral 
collection. But instead of dead stones, she had spent the 
evening and the night to collect adorators from the male 
sex. I made my why through their bodies spread about in 
her room. Some of them were very subtle but incredibly 



89 



conservative. They would spend hours to engineer 
compliments of the most unspecific kind. It was as if they 
paid their night with her with flattery. Most of them were 
form Novosibirsk. They had obviously trained this kind of 
conversation with women for half of their lifes. I found it 
all excessively boring. Basically, it was about her not 
wanting to be photographed. I registered, that I had a little 
favour of her, because painting a portrait was perfectly o.k. 
in her obsessively capricious little world. I groaned to 
myself at the idea that I would be a woman in this macho 
hell of Russia. I would, yes I would get away, get out of it 
any way, at any price. Well, that is speculation. The task I 
had set myself was more down to earth. I had to coax her 
into reducing her cornered movements, try to convince her 
to stay on one side of the light. Well, the light was a pity 
anyway. It is always a pity not to paint in sunlight. There is 
so much less substance getting palpitable under electric 
lights. I tried my best and got her with bravery. No trace of 
love, as for me at least. Yet, I think that the bravura of male 
compliment filling the night time holes of conversation 
nicely, coldly and with an obnoxious, constant insinuation 
was equally an indicator for the perfectly ignored absence 
of any real feeling. Into this void, she said sentences which 
I believe she has been repeating for years in her place of 
work. It was all made to spurn adoration and it all missed 
the point. She was talking about her stories in Altaj 
language, which she published in the newspaper. She told 
about her university career, did not forget to mention that 
her dancing talents had made her join a tourney around 
Europe. At one point, I was feeling really sorry for her. It 
was when she tried to speak about the poems she writes 
and was so unwise to try to recite one. She got stuck. She 
did not remember. And then she commented herself 
sharply. "Not a convincing thing to get stuck with your 



90 



own poems, is it? She was so terribly unsure, irritated. 
Speaking about her face, her body, the repressive sexist 
character of the Russian talk about female beauty turned up 
like a dying dolphin on the surface of the sea. Age and 
ripening is unacceptable for the male Russian cult of youth, 
male disrespect and male ignorance are the malicious 
revenge against experienced women for the flattering credit 
dealt out to any available inexperience. 

She was working against a hill now. "I am praising myself" 
she remarked, and as if citing her grandmother's counsels 
"that is bad, it looks as if I was dependent on your opinion." 
I rather cheered her now, silently. I had the vision, that she 
could be independent; she understood the mill she was 
caught in. But she was grinding on. Complements hailed 
down listlessly on her. In the end, when nothing seemed to 
work any more, she started to boast of her husband, of her 
luck and happiness to be married. I felt slightly sick from 
lack of sleep. 

After having got the dark accents on the Cuban tested 
surface in their places, I retreated to have my things ready 
for the early morning bus. Everybody was hastily getting 
out of her room now. It was as if the end of my work had 
made it finally inappropriate for the majority to hang 
around her bedside any more. An hour later, I saw with a 
clear morning eye, how a youngster with a rather pale and 
somehow brutal looking visage came out of her cabinet, 
getting his trousers right with an occasional and firm 
movement claiming importance. He fixed me with a rude 
air and turned his face slightly up so to let me glance at his 
head from a lowered perspective, a very effective tool you 
can observe with certain eastern European male types who 
pay very much attention to make you believe that they are 



91 



on the winning side. When I had my luggage ready and it 
was time to go, the housekeeper was sitting behind her 
window with an air of subdued professional humility. 
Without doubt she was very tired. I understood that she 
had an awful job and no training to economise her forces. 
That made her a victim, not only to male compliments but 
to her own ambition. She was full of talents and a very 
sound ambition to make them heard. But the way she took 
was just right to ruin her resources at a breathtaking speed. 
Or maybe, I had not understood her true reserves. Possible. 

Weeks later, I asked myself why her nightly attacks had 
been rather acceptable to me and I came across the 
memory of the African cook at my French workplace. She 
was a terrible cook. Once over a week, some colleagues and 
I registered that she had dumped so much oil in our food 
that bay half of the week everyone had swallowed an 
average of two glasses. Only after she was fired I learned 
that she had slept with almost everybody in the 
establishment and many conflicts in our centre, e.g. 
between Christian and Moslem Africans were really 
fraction fights of jealousy. I marvelled how all this extreme 
activity could possibly have omitted my attention and I 
found no answer. I remember clearly however, that she had 
a tendency to attack me for unbelievable trifles with a 
fervour and persistence I could not explain at that time. 
Having travelled the United States, I learned to pay more 
attention to the superposition of triple oppression: 
discrimination of working-classes, women and racial 
discrimination. I am quite convinced that French African 
cook just as the Russian Altaj housekeeper were suffering 
excessively from all three modes of repression. Their 
compensational strategy was astonishingly similar. They 
would assume a stiff authoritarian and despotic attitude 



92 



which would only compromise in the case of being offered 
sexualised complements and reverence. To the difference 
of middle class women of equally authoritarian socialisation, 
such emotional economy would not keep to common 
conventions of accumulating symbols of respectability. 
Instead, maximalising success within the compensational 
strategy resulted in intense instrumentalisation and maybe 
exploitation of the body and the mind. In "The grass is 
singing", a school lecture I owe to my Australian education, 
Doris Lessing has portrait the neurotic consequences of 
slave labour in an erotic relation between mistress and 
servant. The inhuman tension of physical closeness and 
forceful social distance leads to male aggression in the case 
documented by Lessing. The female outlet in a form of 
arbitrary tyranny seems more stable, nevertheless. It puts, 
as in Lessing's study, the price at the expense of the female 
body. The question of structural racism against Altaj 
aboriginals for the benefit of heirs to the Russian colonial 
system is a black spot in the analyses of the regional, 
traditional left. 

With a little shock, I noticed that there was now only 
minimal time left to go down the river, take the hanging 
bridge and go up on the other side. I asked for my 
reservation and put special attention on the tricky task to 
keep any demanding notion out of my voice. She would 
not give it to me. "Why?" I asked casually, and then I heard 
myself continue with that lightness only a morning can give 
you and which you cannot invent beforehand "are you still 
cross with me for that table?" "No," she answered plainly. I 
believed her. But, slightly letting her tongue get between 
her teeth, she then explained "I do not know how to do 
that. I am afraid, I will make a mistake." Now, I clearly felt 



93 



the nerves around my eyeballs shiver from lack of sleep and 
a grinding feeling of helplessness set in on me. 

So, I wished her a nice and sunny day, a pleasant walk 
home and many new and fine poems to be published in the 
newspaper of the Altaj Republic. I thanked her for the 
amiable atmosphere with which she provides the 
guesthouse and especially for her patience at sitting for the 
portrait. "But", she broke my flow of carefully desexualised 
compliments, "will you really send me a copy of your 
picture? Won't you forget me as soon as you get out of this 
town?" I decided to be finally a bit more economical with 
my words. I thought about an appropriate answer, which 
would be at once true and brief. It took some time and 
then I said "no". 



10. Asian mountains - 
Asian rivers 

The small carrier was already packed with people and 
luggage. I was the only European. The village of Ust- 
Ulagan has a largely Altaj population of 2000, of which 
only one tenth claim an exclusively Russian background. 
However, higher functions such as in the police force, the 
fire fighters, the administration, school and a proportion of 
small business is practically inaccessible for Altaj people. 
However, no matter how hard I tried in Altaj-only 
discussion circles, I could not detect any practice or interest 
in linking issues of ethnicity and issues of power. In a very 
plain way, my Altaj informants would refuse to take up my 
provocations and stress instead, that e.g. many of their 
friends and workmate were Russian, that many Russians 
have to work hard as well, etc. All in all, no Western money 



94 



seems to have been invested effectively in transforming 
social issues into ethnicised assets in the Autonomous 
Republic of Altaj. I was quite astonished by the firmness of 
the replies I got. Principally, this could be the state of 
discussion e.g. in Ukraine now. Judging by statistical and 
material indicators the case for camouflaging ethnic 
division as a viable form of voicing social aspirations has 
more basis in the Altaj republic than in Ukraine. Evidently, 
investing in such battles is not a question of the available 
material pretexts but rather of material chances to enforce 
division until a beneficial end, when investment in 
polarisation along ethnic lines pays out, with or without 
Western support. 

We came through valleys of giant, reddish slopes. We spent 
hours cooling down the boiling motor with icy bottles, 
filled under the outcome of thundering waterfalls going 
down towards us in hundreds of metres of almost free fall. 
We poked through layers of clouds and mist to dissolve our 
subdued senses finally in an obnoxious transparency of 
crystalline, chilly air giving way to our glances: upon eternal 
ice, glaciers of majestic remoteness, hosting shadows of 
green in their fantastic closeness to the light of the sun. I 
looked back in our vehicle. I saw into sun-burnt faces of 
incomprehensible Asian calm and observation. No words. 
This was their land, their hights and falls. The incredible 
vertical movements of our streets were a subtle shake of 
their heads, not more. Their lively eyes protected by slyly 
slimmest lids would not need to cramp for protection when 
facing the bold reflections from those hilarious meadows of 
snow that never melt. But the greatest impact made their 
reflected immensities in the majestic Asian riverbeds, 
gurgling and turning over, beating foam and carrying with 
them stones and rocks in their irresistible stream downhill, 



95 



some of them weighing tons and groaning repetitively once 
in a while with roars of impact unmuffled by the 
overturning water masses and resounding through the 
gigantic valleys we had to pass. 

Horseback riders overtook us, when we were fighting with 
the inaptitude of a Japanese motor to cope with Altaj's 
vertical dimensions. They were sitting in such a clever 
rhythm that their horses' backs seemed to pop up only 
once in a wile to keep them in their most elegant trajectory 
position. Everything about them was moving bumpily and 
shaking in the thrill of speed. Only they were gliding stably 
through the late afternoon air. I saw tents tended by 
nomads; I saw Asian catde and cooking over fire. I saw 
colours dripping with the tickle of the evening approaching 
into a see of dark intensity as if submerging under that 
eternal water, conjured by the English Romantics when 
their bodies gave way to the last prolonged and calm 
spasms of decay inspired by Asian opium. Here the venoms 
of their deaths came from, here their imagination finally 
returned home. This is the mother of the earth, the roof of 
the world. 

I arrived at Ust-Ulagan with a quiet in my senses as if I 
would only now hear and understand the first words in my 
life. Everything seemed simple, true and unpretentious. 
Ulagan is a veritable ice-pole in the immensely chilly body 
of colonial Russia. The air of far Northern Siberia might 
actually collapse down to a monstrosity of 40 degrees 
minus zero during the peak of a polar night. But Ust- 
Ulagan had minus 50 just last winter. The huts and banjas, 
carefully imitating the form of traditional tents in Russian 
block-house technique look as if they pealed out of 
immense snow and ice last week and would re-submerge 



96 



again the other week for almost another year. Their wood is 
greyish, their forms betray the immense pressure of masses 
of snow and ice piling above them in a winter's night. 
I was taken to the fire-fighters of the rajon to have a look at 
their map. "If you definitely will not want to return with us 
tomorrow morning," our driver said warningly, "you will 
have to pass through this, towards Russian Tibet and down 
with the water from Mongolia towards this lake, Teleckoe 
ozoro." It is the second biggest sweet water reservoir in the 
world after Lake Bajkal, as I learnt later. "There might be a 
boat taking you some 100 km over the lake to reach Bijsk 
again." I nodded deferently, though I clearly noticed that 
the way he had showed me on the map went over peaks of 
nearly 3000 m above sea level and this could hardly be the 
trail the locals would prefer. Well, he was a public bus 
driver from the capital and his machine was already at the 
edge of its possibilities in climbing up here. I would have to 
ask a lot more people. I went around the wooden building 
and saw a writing above the door. "Delegation for inner 
affairs", it said, vnutrych del, VD, formely NKVD. I 
imagined how the officers had picked out of the settlement 
their compulsory quota of Trotskyists and Japanese spies in 
1937, 1 imagined their damp warm blood run down the 
cold wooden walls of the building after the first 
interrogation to baptize the Russian National Revolution 
and I could not bear the thought. This climate, this frosty 
air in mid August was somehow already at the edge of 
comprehensible brutality. I could not really support the 
idea that man would add to this still. 

I ignored my ideological reservations to administrations of 
inner affairs and tried to ask for a way through the 
mountains. The officer on duty arrested me immediately. I 
asked for the reason. There was no reason. I asked for the 



97 



head of the rajon. A Russian turned up. "According to the 
laws of the Russian Federation you are obliged to motivate 
my arrest. Why do you take me in custody?" I asked with a 
leaned sentence from the days of protest against the G8 in 
Russia. The commander however was obviously not trained 
to respond to such rebellious talk. He even looked helpless 
for a moment. Then, he took to sophism. "We arrested you 
because we arrested you. You are a foreigner, you know. 
We do not get many foreigners up here, you know. 
Terrorism, you know. The world is full of enemies of 
Russia." "This is not a reason for arrest under the laws of 
the Russian Federation." I insisted. Our intercourse had 
obviously reached a dead point. "We will check your papers 
and then we will decide what to do with you over night." 
There was a little sting in my consciousness. My little friend 
down in the cute capital keeping me awake so laboriously 
over the night had not bothered to register me in the 
Autonomous Republic of Altaj. I was silent and waited. I 
waited for hours. The arrest was a come and go. The 
unusual stir by the sensation that they had got hold of a 
foreigner was cleverly used by an elder Altaj woman to 
walk out of the cell laughingly. She was caught and brought 
back only after actually leaving the building. All in all, I was 
reminded of a scene in the Wild West during the Indian 
wars. The prison commander a European, his victims 
representing all arrestable fractions of population with 
Asian origin, his torture assistants corrupted Red Sins. In 
the end my documents would be handed over to a woman 
for assessment. Obviously the men on service, including 
the commander would not trust their literacy as much as 
their fists for enforcing law and order up here. She was a 
scrupulous type. She would not let go. She would call the 
capital by satellite telephone. She would consider a 
monstrous fine and in the end, she would say simply "Let 



98 



him go!" "Really" the men would interrogate. "Let him go, 
I said." There was no conversation about the reason why I 
was hold up and why I was now entitled to go. 
Nevertheless, the combined masculine police force of Ust- 
Ulagan let me go. I was a bit cross with them that they had 
not bothered to answer my initial question about the way 
through the mountains but I excused them to myself. They 
were obviously very busy in the capital settlement of the 
municipality and could not have an eye so intensely on the 
rest of their terrain of operation, actually larger than a good 
deal of the size of England. 

I stumbled out of the administration building right into 
another queer treatment, a sweetish one this time though. 
There was actually some internet connection. I fingered a 
single personal mail out of a heap of spam. It was from the 
woman my comrades on the Ural railway lines would have 
surely called my girl-friend. 

"Hello," she wrote gaily. "I am hitch-hiking with Hauke 
through the Carpathian Mountains. Yesterday we had sex 
in the tent. Everything is fine. 

But what is the matter with you? I would like you to write a 
bit more personal, to be honest. How can I know your real 
feelings if you only write so superficially? 

By, 

V." 

She had again ignored my pledge for a real mail address. I 
stepped out of the wooden hut called "Internet-cafe" and 
thought in the twilight why these famous Ust-Ulagan 
robbers hadn't turned up yet to give me a well-measured hit 
on my forehead. The owner of the internet cafe just came 



99 



along to see how business was going with his boys on 
service. I stopped him and asked. "Please, tell me where 
these robbers are all of Moscow talks about. Or is it just a 
hype." "It is not a hype", the little Altaj man said calmly 
looking into my face, "I am the biggest one". "You are a 
gangster?" "Yes, the little man retorted seriously, "I am a 
big gangster. Please come with me. I want to find you a 
place where you will pass the night." We walked through 
the evening chill, not to a place to sleep at first, but to a 
place to work. My little gangster was doing some less illegal 
business alongside and had his mates build a new kiosk in 
the centre. "Have a drink with us" he ordered. "This is my 
best friend, a Russian, a worker from Tadzhikistan. He has 
made my mates go far up into the mountains to get yellow 
and grey stones for a mosaic all around the kiosk. He is a 
good worker, a mate. Let us drink." I did not drink. 
Anyway most of the workforce was indeed already 
excessively drunk and hilariously good-natured. They could 
not believe that I gave them postcards which had my own 
paintings printed on them. Even hours later, they would tell 
newcomers that I had painted those for them right on the 
spot. With the help of my little gangster, I then found a 
place to rest. A "hotel" tended by a very bright Jewish 
widow who rejoiced of her liberty and her "business 
activity" after having successfully buried a bullying Moslem 
husband at the end of a 14 years' ordeal. Her "hotel" was 
endemically empty and consisted of a room for herself and 
her daughter and two adjacent spaces with some bed 
constructions stuffed into them. My landlady was a delicate 
and experienced lady with a winning sense of humour. She 
said, that she kept on collecting tops of these little 
Vietnamese magic oil tins and when she had five (red) stars 
in her collection, she would nail them onto her door. 
Personally, I would give her not five but six stars. She had 



100 



even thought to place a set of sewing needles next to my 
bed, not to forget about a rice cooker, washing water, plates, 
spoons and a glass of drinking water. "I am sorry for you, 
that you come today", she said apologising. "I am not in 
my best humour today, because I had to burry my sister 
this afternoon. See how red my eye -lids are. But I have 
stopped crying now." I thought about me burying my own 
sister and hiring out a part of my flat some hours later and 
started to cry out immediately. Actually, it sounded a bit as 
Eva would have done it. Of course our learning in the last 
half year was perfectly mutual. With experienced care, my 
landlady investigated my little attack and gave me not 
Vietnamese oil this time, but the address of a healer, a 
friend of hers living right next door in Western Germany, 
just in case, my sister needed any support for her health. 
Well, she marvelled, turning over further pages in her 
impressive address-book. I have got protection, I can tell 
you. Business is no fun in this republic if you have not a 
serious network of protection, a roof, we call it. All right, 
down there in Russia, they have mafia, extortion, and paid 
murder. But our Autonomous Republic is just so much 
worse. You cannot imagine how much vampires I feed 
along with my little hotel and to be honest, this business 
activity is not precisely as rewarding or let's say as 
profitable as I'd have thought it to be. Fortunately, I have 
built up a little empire of shops and income in the next 
village down the valley to get over the winter. My father 
was a military there. He came over for career reasons from 
the Jewish Autonomous Republic in the Far East. Well we 
Jews are at home here in the East now as anywhere in the 
world. I have 7 siblings. One is in Germany, some in 
America, one in Uzbekistan. It is as if we had secretly 
agreed to get interested in a different culture altogether 
every single one of us, marry there and be as happy or 



101 



unhappy as we only could. I have been quite unhappy in 
marriage, but that is over now. My husband has died and I 
am a free person. Oh, Martin, can you imagine how happy 
I am not to be married any more! People continue to make 
up good parties for me, new protection, all that. To be 
honest, my young friend, I am perfectly happy to live 
without a man. And I have my business to attend, I am not 
a house-wife type, oh no! I am not the one to sit in a corner 
and suffer, I can tell you!" 



11. Ezen - Privet 

The next day had a crystalline clear wind of sun-beams go 
through the freezing mountainous depths. I took the trail 
opposite from where we had arrived. My first lift was two 
hobby photographers who admitted rather ashamedly that 
they were in fact jobbing in a soulless fitness studio in 
Novosibirsk. They had a map, though. I chanced to take a 
quick look on it and I knew within moments what I was to 
do in the following 72 hours. Above the trail I had decided 
for a warning was written onto the map. "Do not go on 
this road without special off-road vehicles!" it read. My 
company had rather something of a normal off-road 
vehicle and would give in after a couple of kilometres 
already. There were clearly efforts to build a bridge over the 
riverbed, but for the time being, building work had just 
begun and there was no way around abandoning your 
vehicle however special you might think it to be to the 
abundant floods hoping for good luck and a lucky dive 
right through the trap. My colleagues resigned from that 
kind of sportsmanship. And my stripping and diving 
through the icy floods on bare feet would not in the least 
convince them to follow me. So I walked on alone. 



102 



wondering how many tougher off-road vehicles with 
tougher drivers there might be in this part of the world. For 
the time being, I could not see a trace of them. 

Only if I know all my weaknesses within my little finger, I 
can shake hands and join fate with a revolutionary 
collective, I oracled to myself. Now is the moment to make 
the overall confession and sum it up to a trifle in view of 
the social task ahead, I declared with a loud voice. I was 
somehow convinced that nobody would hear me on this 
theatre practice. 

Looking back, I quite missed my aim, thus exposing my 
cardinal weakness in practice where I wanted to get the 
theory of it. Protestant socialisation has it that you are to 
confess to yourself before you become ready to join in 
communion with the movement. I had a serious invitation 
downhill. It was not enough to engage in endless 
marvelling about the dark eyes of comrade Larissa. This 
was, speaking strictly from a dialectically materialist point 
of view (DMPV) missing the point to say it plainly. 
Confession was on the agenda. But halas, instead of 
analysing my defaults, I went about grabbing my selective 
memories for excuses and pretexts. Instead of condemning 
myself, I started analysing and condemning the material 
forces which had made me so deficient a soldier for the 
great cause. From the point of view of Protestant 
socialisation, this was rebellious non-sense and not apt to 
interest the almighty corporation for granting redemption. 
Well, Protestants are not bad in marketing, so they are 
silent about hell, whereas my Polish working/ class 
colleagues have suffered tyrannical visions of hell and 
punishment in childhood from their parochial Catholic 
torturers, while the leftist branch of the free world was 



103 



praying for the Victory of Solidarnosc. Compared with 
Catholic confession to a fatty priest, the Protestant ritual 
looks almost as a mental exercise. During the 1991 Iran 
bombardment, I went to a priest genuinely enveloped in a 
bag of obesity, routinely hosting confessors in Notre Dame 
chapel. Pretending to be a Catholic who has run away from 
military service, I urged him to put me up for the night and 
save me from my prosecutors of the military police. "Go 
and give yourself in to the police searching for you", the 
clergyman replied unmoved. "It is your Christian duty to 
obey the laws." "But they will order me to kill", I cried in 
false despair. "It is your Christian duty to obey the law," he 
repeated and dismissed me. At that time, I had the intuition 
that a German clergyman would have been slightly more 
clever and would have included the historic case of 
German Fascism in his argument. And indeed, in spring 
1999 Antje Vollmer, a Protestant priest handed over to the 
service of German expansionism in the ranks of the olive- 
green party would follow her leader Joseph Fischer and 
declare it our utmost duty to bomb Belgrade with German 
missiles for a third time in the 20' century. This time it was 
to end the occasional repetition of "Holocaust in Kosovo" 
discovered by some Western media. Their poor pretexts 
from the ground were falsified and contradicted even 
Western military intelligence of these days as it turned out 
later in investigation conducted by the European council. 
Hence, there is some reason to mistrust priests on the 
whole line. How attractive therefore to be able to confess 
to yourself (though it will not win you a free bed in Paris, 
even if you are successful). 

I walked up-hill half-consciously humming Schubert's 
Winterreise: "I have to go that road which nobody ever 
came back!" It is a long time ago that I got infested with 



104 



Winterreise. I was in Spain then on the farm of Nine, my 
colleague in rage against bourgeois adoration of us 
travelling types. When calling someone back in Central 
Europe, I would speak just enough to make them listen 
attentively to the songs of Schubert. This could go on for 
hours. Telephone is cheap in the West. When I left a town 
in those times, I was sure to sing the crow song and when I 
found a place to sleep, it was almost obligatory to sing, 
imitating a slightly romantic and intrinsically ridiculous bass 
"in einer Koehlers simplen Huett' hab' Obdach ich 
gefunden. Doch meine Glieder ruh'n nicht aus so brennen 
ihre Wunden. . ." This can get quite obsessive if it does 
continue for months as in my case. Actually it was fiddling 
and presumably learning Chinese which cured me from the 
truly comic tragedism of Winterreise. But I was not diving 
into the same river once again now up on the Altaj Plateau. 
It was not about music at all now. I was recalling the death 
of my grandmother suddenly and I had long hours in the 
mountain solitude to contemplate my recollections. 

I was returning from work in Rome to Warsaw then, in 
March 2005. Everything was snow beyond Florence. The 
olive trees on the slopes around Bologna had their 
branches heading heavily to the earth under loads of white. 
I stopped for ages in Vienna. I remember these Fascist 
bunkers standing with obnoxious brutality in the middle of 
parks and public spaces. "Nobody can get them away" my 
friend Eva from Vienna explained. I slept in a flat of some 
200 square metres and ceilings some 4 metres above the 
floor. My host, Eva's best friend, played the clarinet. We 
played in three together, Eva on her accordion and me on 
the trumpet with the assistance of a muffler. We could have 
continued to live like that, I suppose. I knew nothing. My 
grandmother was already in the morgue then. 



105 



But I went on to Warsaw. She opened the door for me and 
dealt out the news just as a welcome blow into my face, I 
had not yet put down the luggage. She watched me 
intensely. I am sorry for Catholically socialised people. 
They have such a neurotic, such an unconsidering relation 
to death. They want it all to be in keeping with their plastic 
flowers and their compulsory feelings in such cases. I did 
not cry then. And she would attack me bitterly. "I thought 
you had some rest of feeling left. Not for me, of course. 
But for the death of the most important woman in your life! 
I know that she was more important for you than your 
mother. And still, you do not even cry. You are an 
emotional corpse; there is nothing I can do with you any 
more." She did make love to me still. But later she claimed 
that she had not really meant that, not meant if for the past 
8 years actually. "You are too fast. You see only yourself. 
You do not register my reaction. You have no real feeling. 
Your caressing is empty. After a while, it rather hurts." 
Secretly I believed her everything then. 

A year afterwards, I interviewed the woman my comrades 
on the Ural railway lines would have certainly called my 
girl-friend on the topic. She said the exact opposite were 
true. Let us wait and see what she will tell when she knows 
a litde better what exacdy she is getting herself into in these 
nights on another part of that globe. What starts off easily 
in a tent can boil down to most conventionalist fixation 
and that would necessitate a guilty verdict for someone 
around here to be sure. In small details with her, there has 
already been much practice of such inversion. 

Maybe my Polish companion for a decade was really a 
virtuosi in twisting things to their very opposite to match 



106 



an underground feeling of senselessness. For example, she 
would have a damned good intuition of what I sincerely 
intended to and then she could slap into my face her 
poignantlyy bitter proof that, in effect, I attained nothing 
but the exact opposite. I would e.g. try to pass over money 
I happened to have with the utmost occasionally I was 
capable of. She was jobless for 8 years. It was not her fault. 
It was the fault of Polish capitalism not letting her put her 
laborious conscience into such results which earn you 
market remuneration. She wrote a brilliant PhD instead. I 
read it with enthusiasm through a day and half a night. She 
herself would not read a page of my PhD. She would just 
warn me, "do not use me to write it". To be honest, she 
has done exactly that herself, used me to write hers and that 
was perfectly o.k. Once she had written it, she went out to 
search for one she loved and in the long run finally 
disposed of the comrade who had stepped into her flat on 
10' of December 1996 quite unwilling to go in the 
following decade. Take the example of money. Little has 
been as painful as that. Once she had guessed my intention 
to transfer purchase power between us without making any 
fuss of it, she would brake down in tears, how I, a German 
intruder, could be so indelicate to expose her material 
dependence publicly. 

German intrusion that is really a key motive of the decade. 
I guess my very German successor did not get quite the 
beating. I imagine it to be like the career of younger siblings. 
My brother hardly ever got a smack, whereas I went 
through a hell of a lot of beating by my mother. She would 
never admit it nowadays. I cannot help seeing parents who 
beat as a failing sort. For me this an early childhood 
experience and it continued to the age of 18. It got worst in 
the end, in 1988, when my mother had an affair with a 



107 



clergyman. I would get physical punishment even for 
returning late with the bicycle from my lover's home, 1 5 
km north. Alas, it took some 3 hours to push the bike if the 
air had gone out of it again. I came late, yes. But I did not 
even have the guts to make love to her being quite 
conscious about a certain lack of talent then for making 
rubber products hold any pressure, as my truly 
dysfunctional bike clearly showed me. Well, that were the 
1980s. We were all caught in a terrible ecomania. On the 
agricultural I went on later to learn everything for an 
organic commune, half of the students would get pregnant 
before passing the exam on "Agrartechnik". I passed that 
exam without a family background and on riding home to a 
little gypsy wagon in a cherry orchard I laughed from 
delight on the whole way from the beginning to the end. I 
was 22 years old and this had been the last exam of my life, 
I rejoiced. In the aftermath of this little success, I decided 
to engage in some compromises with technology for the 
sake of widening my horizons beyond academical 
knowledge. 

On the first night I stayed at that place in Warsaw 1996, she 
would ask me to tell a joke in German language. "That's 
enough," she would cut me short after a while. "It really 
sounds just as in our films on German Fascists." I was 
shocked but took it as a legitimate observation. I did not 
want delicacy. Honesty was quite sufficient. 7 years later, I 
went to a working-class Cuban hairdresser collective before 
meeting a woman who had taken the liberty to kiss me in 
her place of work. The public hairdresser who got me took 
off everything I had on my head, surest way of keeping me 
out of the shop for some time. Afterwards, she stroke over 
my head with laughing admiration and said "Just as a little 
Nazi." I do not even think she meant that to be funny. It 



108 



was just a reverence to my origin, a shockingly neutral 
connotation a for Cuban youth. You can possibly imagine 
that the Baltic story does not really work there and telling 
people you are a Pole makes them shrink away from you 
with muted fear for Cubans righdy know Poles to be 
traitors to the cause of socialism. Even all the left friends I 
have in Poland have acted as traitors, if they were old 
enough to buy a kilo of bananas. In the Cuban case 
however where bananas grow in your back-yard, I rebelled 
with all my spirits and made a big scandal out of it. A 
woman living on the rubbles of the Warsaw ghetto has the 
right for more offensive remarks than a woman in the least 
anti-semitic country of the world, including Israel. 

Ten years ago, my Polish companion did not know a word 
of German and she knew reasons not to change this. When 
we travelled through Germany on the quickest way possible 
to get to Paris she would feel feverish the entire length of 
the delicate transit because of the war. Nine years later, she 
could date with her new German lover without any 
translation help from my part. It was the peculiar idea of 
the later acquaintance, whom the comrades on the Ural 
railways would have surely called my girl-friend, to ask me 
to translate and edit her love letters to her new German 
bed mate. Hold on, these two guys even came from the 
same town, Hamburg, and worked in the same political 
spectrum, leftish Anarchism, they might call it. The 
repetitiveness of these developments, one after 10 years, 
one after 10 months of intense friendship does remind me 
of something I think to have learnt from experiencing the 
impact of a death. It sets forth learning processes which are 
really aloof from the usual self-commiseration and the 
common unmaterialistic appeals to make everything good 
again by the force of will and sympathy. The force of will 



109 



and sympathy has definite limits a materialist has to 
become familiar with. There is a lack of inventiveness, a 
blind heeding to material currents, in the case of love's 
labours lost e.g. socio-economic factors among others, 
there is the standard commodity blueprint of fostering and 
protecting your new acquisition on the emotional market. 
All of them combined can result in developments similar to 
the mode in which death sets definite limits. And there is 
nothing to be done against it and there is no reason, no 
sense to pressure against that. It does make sense to 
pressure against lots of other developments though. It this 
case, however, even your resistance may be just a 
preliminary version of the end. The end. I remember my 
mother talking to me on the phone, advising me how to do 
those 1200 km to come to her mother's funeral in time. She 
wanted me to be very quick and get the ritual conversation 
with the Protestant clergyman before the actual burial. I 
thought about a song which has had a certain fascination 
for me in autumn 1991. It's text by Tucholsky went very 
funny and realist: "When someone goes away, your interior 
starts to vibrate like a dimmer: now she's gone, what am I 
to do here, still? But no higher forces come for help, 
because by established custom the most stupid ideology has 
to do all the talking at a grave." I did not want to hear any 
of that talking and I knew why. Protestants always talk. 
They are the parrots of bourgeois consciousness and they 
accumulate spiritual capital by exploiting your readiness to 
listen. Maybe I became a materialist in the full sense of the 
word only when burying my grandmother. If my childish 
religiosity hanged already with a blue face, this event threw 
itself at its dangling feet and pulled it down with all its 
might. So it succeeded in definitely finishing up the earthly 
existence of the culprit. I do not conceal that in the first 
place all that hanging procedure was the exclusive doing of 



110 



Marxism put at work within me. My mother would actually 
be quite sorry hearing that. It would certainly remind her of 
a personal battle she fought alone in her class against 
reason and careerism alike in an East German school 
during the 1950s. She is definitely against the death penalty. 
I will not issue any statement on such a moralised question 
as long as world Capitalism still succeeds in starving some 
50 000 of my comrades daily. In the conditions of the third 
world, comparing Cuba and its neighbouring countries, 
including Georgia and Florida, I learnt to actually 
appreciate the effects of red terror when nothing else seems 
to help keeping capitalists off our throats. 

To be sure, there were two people at my grandmother's 
grave who wept terribly, my father and me. I know me to 
be liable to collapse facing any consequences of red terror 
in a very similar intensity. My mother, whom I remember 
as a tremendously powerful weeper in my early childhood 
would appear all relaxed and calm then. When the guests 
were leaving us at the end of the day, she would remark 
with this strange talent of hers to say the most 
inappropriate phrase in a given situation "I wonder who 
will be the next." My mother says that she has learnt how 
to cope with death and dying when being forced to raise us 
three children. I remember her lying in the kitchen in a 
genuine spasm of desperation. Our father was away as 
nearly always. He was actually terribly busy from the earliest 
times I can remember onwards, slowly and steadily building 
up his life project of merging work- and alcoholism. All the 
while my mother was forced to live in a situation 
comparable to wives under Spanish Fascism. Until today 
she has no bank account of her own. She would have 
literary no pay-for-work experience except for 
unremunerated and often humiliating auxiliary jobs created 



111 



by my father's devouring ambition at a breathless speed. 
Still today, she is able to come close to a nervous break- 
down on discovering that I have used some card-board 
from her hand-printing shop or some red pigment. Even if 
she had granted a general permission earlier she would then 
find out that this was from a stock she had saved from her 
precious years of liberty when studying fine arts in the 
1960s and that she disposed of literally no personal money 
to buy any replacement nowadays. All the while my father 
earns roughly 4 times the pay of a qualified industrial 
worker in the same village. It must have been around 1977. 
It was not about artistic materials then, but rather about 
time. She resolved in weeping with long and incredibly 
intense cries which made the whole house reverberate. Her 
body came to lay down in wild contractions on the kitchen 
floor, just before the entrance of a lousy and cold storage 
room the architecture of my father's hand had allowed at 
this place to facilitate domestic duties. This was actually her 
studio at that time, leaving roughly a square metre for her 
laborious paintings she worked on intensely for months. I 
say roughly a square meter but actually right into this free 
space the kitchen door was opening. Whenever one of us 
three kids would run to her, we would inevitably bump the 
metal door handle right into her spine. In order to have just 
a little distance to look at her work which was later to be 
exposed in first-hand galleries of the affluent republic my 
mother actually had to abandon her cell-like retreat of the 
size of a toilet and risk to go into the kitchen. This kitchen 
is notoriously tidy to the present day, no matter what bull- 
shit any of us lousy bastards has been fabricating there. 
Actually, there could not be a better architectural 
composition for enslaving a professionally trained woman 
to idiotic house-work than this one. My father was writing a 
pompous dissertation at that time on the so-called 



112 



"hodological architectural space", the space defined by the 
ways you have to walk. For this explorative book, he found 
the muse of combining Chinese philosophy and modern 
empirical studies, including even some conducted in the 
Soviet Union. Theoretically speaking, he might have been a 
leading expert at that time in defining social relations by 
making people live within his design of space and ways to 
walk. I have only once heard such crying again, it was in 
Ingmar Bergman's film Fanny and Alexander. Her crying 
was officially about us three. It was not only that we made 
it impossible to her to go on painting as she wanted. She 
claimed more. "You bury me alive!" She cried at the edge 
of a female voice in the age of 35. Today having her age of 
that time myself, I understand that we were probably not 
that much guilty as maybe our father was. Maybe a good 
proportion of guilt in a materialist sense was even sucked 
up in the tremendous success of the left publishing house 
Kiepenheuer & Witsch of that time. Having studies in the 
Berlin of student revolt and doing occasional support work 
for comrades who had gone underground, my mother had 
all her enthusiasm and graphical skill set at work for 
illustrating at the service and mercy of that publishing trust 
flirting with a new and radical left. Alas, they would never 
pay a Pfennig for all my mother did. They were just a 
bunch of macho bastards pressing free resources out of a 
devolving movement. 

But children are in a certain sense defenceless. I think this 
afternoon alone might have actually had the effect of a life- 
long anti-baby pill for the three of us. We seem to have the 
necessary physical drill and the nerve-racking discipline 
reaching right down into the most blissful moments of our 
lives. With a curious blockade which seems to be built into 
our very nervous constitution set down in early childhood 



113 



we can avoid in the course of decades what others risk on 
occasional hitch-hiking through the Carpathian Mountains. 

Though counting 103 years now, altogether, neither my 
sister, nor my brother, nor me have ever succeeded in 
becoming really intimate with anyone who seriously wanted 
to provoke a child with us. Maybe we have not actively 
sought for such acquaintances. Who could tell? I prefer to 
judge some developments from their results. 

Take my companionship of a Polish decade for example. 
Isn't it humiliating how you can create misery for each 
other? I positively assume that all these unfair treatments 
by her were just a faint reflection of what she has suffered 
from me. My later Ukrainian acquaintance, gifted with that 
little weakness to fall for anti-authoritarian behaving 
students, be them Ukrainians, Russians or Germans, would 
bluntly analyse that I had myself fallen into a hierarchy trap 
and submitted under the despotism of a woman against 
whom I could raise no prolonged criticism because of my 
complexes of historic guilt towards Polish people. Indeed 
as soon as my mother would hear of me kicking people in 
my childhood or anything of the like, she would conjure up 
that picture, monstrously realist as I found out later, of a 
German in uniform kicking Jews of the Warsaw ghetto into 
the trains to Treblinka. My Ukrainian acquaintance has 
indeed got a point there. But it is only a point, not the clue, 
not the key for doing any better. 

Tyrannical behaviour is not alien to her. She has learned to 
span in her daughter for well-conceived emotional attacks 
of which she would easily admit a certain un-fairness a 
couple of days later when the battle's won. She lets her 
daughter work for herself. She has incredibly fatal fits of 



114 



jealousness, even damaging some of my essentially political 
friendships by chance, sort of collateral impact. And while 
doing such demolition work she can actually be just 
heading off with another bed mate. 

There is such a lack of constructivism in the late reign of 
Capital! I was out for confession and catharsis and I have 
missed the trail and got right into the practical question: 
how can we possibly burn out class rule from the face of 
this earth? All the while, no matter where I get to by the 
chaotic convulsions of my memories, it is all about 
accumulation, materially, emotionally, destructively. Take 
the dearest memories available to me, e.g. Both, my later 
Polish and my later Ukrainian companion can be just as 
aggressive, especially when they know themselves that they 
are really playing false. Interestingly enough, no one of 
them ever expressed the wish, not even the dream, which 
could have been put under the reservation that it should 
not be fulfilled, of risking a child with me. Though I still 
believe and I told them on every appropriate and 
inappropriate occasion that with an utmost and combined 
effort you can bring up a new generation in a constructivist 
spirit, getting beyond the neurotic ambition to accumulate 
on your own genetic principles. The answer has been 
uniform, like a consistent echo from a cry of 1977: "Not 
now! Not to this world! Not with this one!" In 1977 I got 
early training to accept this. I can really understand them. I 
did never insist on our disagreement to mean anything for 
us. And all the while through my seemingly perfect 
understanding it hurts, terribly, like those prolonged cries 
of 1977 did hurt terribly and do not disappear from my 
daily doings. And this peculiar pain is quite likely to 
accompany us three siblings to our graves with first two, 
then one, then none to throw some earth and flowers. 



115 



Though, empirically speaking, childmaking is not fun to 
watch either, in most cases. I have heard of terribly few 
cases where the driving force was not fatal male machismo, 
paranoiac conservatism, outright resignation due to more 
or less joyless lovemaking or helpless deference to outside 
expectations. Children seem to come out primarily from 
neurotic, ritualisingly dead and anti-modern sexual relations 
as far as I can see. Bad luck for the children, I would say in 
the first place. Socialist revolution mobilises a vast process 
of public adoption. 

Walking uphill, I was suddenly being shaken by warm and 
ringing laughter. What was this? An insect or a tiny bird? 
Something very big. It would start up from the mountain 
grass as a giant black locust and then spread a set of 
additional wings of scarlet red colour to go down in a 
terribly theatrical rattle. It was an Asian devil of the upland 
steps, a caprice of nature to be sure. Where did it get the 
energy from, to perform such scenic mastery in this meagre 
climate where basically nobody would watch? Nobody? 
Can we ever understand anything so simple? I had literary 
to sit down to laugh. This was the only adequate answer to 
my reflections. I will not undo my childhood; I will not 
retrieve love's labours lost. But I can laugh about a beast 
summing it all up in one hilarious jump, and furthermore I 
can through a Molotov cocktail in the right moment, 
demolish a police car and run out of a wedding ceremony 
when I feel the water close around my throat. It must have 
been an insect really. I saw two or three more. Sometimes I 
lie sleepless at night and I ask myself in a very general sense: 
what does my party, a party as defined in the Communist 
Manifesto, what does it really want me to do during the 
remaining time of my life? Well, supposedly I then got the 



116 



mission to promote shamanism; I would make very broad 
use of the Altaj scarlet locust. 

We had already thrown flowers and earth onto the grave 
and I was shaken by unbearable fits of weeping, just as my 
father, when I happened to become subject to a coinciding 
outside attack. This one as well was inspired by Roman- 
Catholic socialisation. It did not feel exactly a fortunate 
week then, I can tell you. History does indeed seem to 
happen as a tragedy and repeat itself even somehow more 
painfully in the form of a farce as the moth-bitten uncle 
Marx in exile rightly observed. Now it was my childhood 
neighbour and Catholic elementary schoolmistress Frau 
Hillmann who descended on me with veritably biblical 
fervour. Funnily though, she could not really accuse me for 
not weeping, as the counterpart linked to her by the holy 
communion and another couple of cardinal performances. 
The Polish victim, though philosophically as much an 
atheist as I can claim to be one already, had descended on 
my not weeping with some legitimacy three days before. To 
the contrary, maybe the overweighty and retired 
schoolmistress attacked me right for weeping, who knows. 
She fished me out of the protection of the crowd, dragged 
me apart to face the melting snow and started to agitate me 
with the voice of a Trotskyite or a Japanese spy "Your 
grandmother has given you so much! Do not forget that. 
Do not forget that! Martin! Listen to me! Do not forget 
her!" I should have been economical with words that 
afternoon to simply shut her up with the unpretentious 
word "no". Instead, basically I did hardly notice her and 
would actually not react to her at all. I was very busy these 
minutes, not as it might have appeared to some bystanders 
busy with weeping, that can be left perfectly to the eyes and 
the adjacent respiratory system, but to the contrary: busy 



117 



with thinking. As I can tell in retrospective, I was making 
up bold and graciously open plans for the whole rest of my 
life in precisely that moment. I had not the slightest 
fraction of rational capacity left over to behave towards 
Frau Hillmann, that is for sure. My rationality was all at 
work under these immensely effective protective covers of 
sobs and convulsive physical grief. I actively expanded my 
materialist concept of life and death with every breath I 
took and gave away. I soberly assessed the forces which 
were still in my body, and made up somehow joyously how 
I wanted to use them for a sensually opulent and politically 
revolutionary life before everything would inevitably and 
without any comfort recede into meaninglessness. 

Following the winding traces east, I had now gained 
considerable height and passed a mountain range. This 
allowed me to oversee a high plateau of fulminate 
extension. Different tones of green were intermingling and 
playing changingly into the yellowish heights beyond the 
reach of trees. Snow-covered tops were showing up in the 
farest southwest and I could not help imagining them as 
the veritable, physically impassable frontier to China, the 
promised land. Maybe I had really come in sight by now to 
where the outposts of four republics meet on eternal ice: 
Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan and the destination of my 
long, long journey on this splendid top of the earth, Kitaj. 



12. harvesting stones and taking them 

home 

At this moment a huge soviet lorry came to an abrupt and 

honking halt just behind me. An Altaj woman addressed 
me impatiently. "Are you going far?" Until today, I cannot 



118 



possibly guess what she asked it for. Would she not take 
me if I actually wanted to go too far or would she only take 
me for heading very far? I instantly grasped the need to 
utter an answer so vague that either way round, it could not 
possibly cause her to go without me. I hastily jumped on 
the big open rear. After a jump 10 metres downhill I had 
understood that I would simply break my bones from the 
impacts of the vehicle if I had continued to remain in a 
sitting position. I had expected a stern drive, but this was 
nothing of the like, it was plainly a hellish enterprise. They 
were going down on an open meadow with more than 60 
km an hour. Two young Altaj farmhands sharing the rear 
with me showed me how to cling to a wooden board and 
compensate being thrown up with perfectly elastic legs 
when crashing down. I told to myself that the earth was 
moving very fast anyway every second and that this was 
just another vector and that anyway only burgers believe 
that the world stands still for their comfort. But it was 
terribly cold in the velocity. I would have loved to put on a 
scarf but there was no free second to do that. You had to 
cling to the board, the only life insurance available under 
present market conditions. Underneath us, 4 tons of steel 
were working with gigantic flexions and torsions making 
the metal roar and squeak to the extreme. I started to 
understand the landscape, the hills mountains, sudden falls 
and sharp risings as actually flying towards us, not the other 
way round, that helped a little. The following hour I saw 
possibly the most dramatic mountain scenery in all my life 
but it felt like a gramophone disc being played some 5 
times too fast. Mountains of 3000 meter and more flew 
past, giant breaks lead half a thousand metres down and I 
could imagine us overturning and going strait down 
without considerably taking on speed in the almost free fall. 
There was a lake down in those valleys and I had a quarter 



119 



of a second to plunge my intensified imagination right into 
it, put up a tent on its shore, invite Eva, draw the gentle 
midday waves against the mountain summer light. And on 
we honked with relentless acceleration. 

Suddenly, however, there was an old Altaj woman walking 
on the middle of the trail in the middle of nowhere. The 
truck came to a sudden halt a metre before her and now we 
had all the time of the world for a lengthy chat. The 
walking woman was dressed in traditional Asian clothing 
and I felt a reverence for her calm expression and gestures 
which I had probably internalised on working with Malayan 
rice farmers in Madagascar 14 years ago and started to 
comprehend on speaking to Asian peasants in Burma for 
the first time back in 1987 on returning from Australia. 
Our lorry was to load hay from a site 30 km away, I leaned. 
The old woman was coming from a hayfield as well. 
Everything turned around agriculture. The short summer is 
a succession of long, long workdays. 

The principle of our hellish speed was a rational, 
agricultural work routine as well. Once you start to slow 
down on such a bumpy track as a four wheel drive 
equipped, well-fed, well-reposed tourist tends to do, you 
really enter the holes with the full physical might of tons of 
steel falling down and being hit up again, painfully for your 
body and actually devastating for the metal hardware 
around it. In the end, going slowly would be quite worse 
for both, truck and driver, actually. So the hellish 
acceleration of Altaj trucks, their trajectory flight over 
endless, nauseating successions of holes, interrupted only 
by occasional breathtaking touchdowns on the amortisation 
is nothing but a direct translation of the horseback 
experience, a technique dating back thousands of years. 



120 



Continual journeying through this part of the world, which 
seems closer to the moon actually, can only be had at the 
price of stabilising a mobile and most chaotic falling 
dynamic consisting of nothing else but constant collisions 
to be rescued and supported. In a very broad sense, socially, 
economically, politically, emotionally, this is the mode of 
truly revolutionary travelling you evolve towards when 
seriously taking up the task. The Altaj riders and their 
modern truck-based followers have found a perfectly 
rational and self-contained clue for dynamic stability and it 
was not only a thousand years ago that their superb mastery 
could afford to go for a reconquest of bloody old Europe. 

Some kilometres down though, the journey came to an 
abrupt halt again. No chatting through the open drivers 
window, now. It was my turn. "You go down here, we 
drive up there, be careful!" and they were off uphill in a 
rolling cloud of dust. Go down to the riverside, was actually 
the adequate expression. There was a gigantic river a 
kilometre away, but the way towards it had a more 
important vertical component than a horizontal one. 
Actually there was nothing in the least horizontal before my 
senses, it was all a scenery of giant masses of stones and 
rocks and gravel in the very process of falling down similar 
to a waterfall. Back in the cute German hills I have an old 
friend from school, Dirk. During the 1980s, we developed 
an art of excursionism and exploring outdoors which could 
stretch over summer weeks on end. After half a decade of 
studying geology, he would tell me with glowing spirits 
about his growing ability to have a feeling for time. When 
looking at a landscape, he reported, he could by then 
literary feel the mountains move, condensing their 
evolution over hundreds of millions of years in his 
professionally trained perception. "Water is the one and 



121 



everything", he would resume his stupor of apprehension 
to my amateur ignorance when we were standing in front 
of any landscape representing a thrill to him. "Leaving aside 
volcanic activity, the majority of mountains we know could 
only built by water under water, calm water. Their layers 
might rise up later from tectonic pressure. But once the 
substance gets above sea level it is subject to a continual 
destruction. This destruction is again the work of water, 
dynamic water." I could not help to use his instructions for 
the most dilettante analogies. In the beginning, I was even a 
bit ashamed of what I made of his wisdom. However, later 
I learned that he had given up geology and working 
outdoors altogether for a lousy job-agency retraining 
scheme making him a Microsoft system administrator, i.e. 
learning practically nothing in a year's course and being 
granted the right to promote Microsoft products in return. 
So now, I am more confident to use his ingenious insight, 
exporting Marx and Darwin into the realm of stones, to try 
a linkish reimport. Take the Soviet Union experience for 
example. The pressure of a World War butchery had made 
it rise above the marazm of Capitalist suffocation, a large 
and rough formation comprising one sixths of everything 
man can inhabit. Tectonically speaking, this result of a 
tragic collision was a direly instable but nonetheless giant 
island. The only one at its time. It has had two predecessors 
in time, the Owenite communes in the first half of the 19 
century and the Paris commune, a tiny and fascinating atoll 
of tropical splendour provoked by the long-term aftermath 
of the social volcanism the French revolution had set free. 
But we agreed to leave volcanism aside. We have to leave 
something out of our metaphor to be retain the potential 
for surprise in our minds. Let us keep to the continent of 
the Soviet Union then, a structure in permanent collaps 
from the first day onward, yet still above sea level for the 



122 



time being. Yes, I know that there were giant rivers and 
giant lakes included in this formation, even inner seas right 
in its centre. But to the difference of bourgeois mainstream 
historiography I do not take that as a proof that land above 
sea has in fact never existed on the face of the earth. 

To the contrary, the one and only giant island soon got two 
little-known Sputniks in its first years of tormenting rains. 
One was the Socialist Republic of Mongolia. The Third one 
is my personal favourite to smash even the bourgeois 
encyclopaedism of the BBC show "Brain of Britain": it was 
the Socialist Republic of Tuva, Soviet Tibet as it is called 
among initiated Siberians. There are not many of them still 
alive, to be sure. This land on the face of the terribly 
ultramarine earth was accessible only once in a year. A late 
pseudo-Tsarist dictator of the revolutionary civil war had 
flown into this mousetrap and put up his orthodox reign 
there. But the tectonic pressure of class conflict in this part 
of the world was just too high. His repressive terror was 
useless, Tuva had to come out of the water! Altaj people, 
their immediate neighbours tell of a last effort by the white 
officers to hide their heritage in gold, weapons and paper 
documents. There must indeed have been a considerable 
rest of the immeasurable stuff they had inherited or ripped 
of the dying body of tsarist rule. In the freezing cold, they 
are said to have got the load up to a mountain peak of 
exceptional height. They would then take to their common 
practice of expropriating live-saving sheep kept by locals 
for surviving the winter cataclysms of the region. Ripping 
apart the precious animals, they would hold the carcasses to 
the chilling cliff piling up inaccessibly human feet above 
their position. Within minutes, the corpses froze to the 
stone and allowed the desperate rest of a dying army to 
advance one step further towards a legendary secret cave. 



123 



This cave finally served as a burial site for both, the tsarist 
fortune and its carriers. Spring came, the frozen corpses of 
the sheep fell down. Were they collected by locals who had 
survived the white terror or were just their bones taken 
away years later? We do not know. This makes it 
considerably difficult for a contemporary army of fanatics 
to localise the site. But they are out there, winter and 
summer, trying to get to the last trace of a dying empire. 
With a truly submarine interest, they want to restitute the 
submarine heritage of the roof of Asia. But the Republic of 
Tuva moved out of the waters with glory and by herself. 
And it became a fully independent ally of the great Soviet 
Union. Though quite aloof from ocean tempests at first site, 
it shared some of the most tragic giant storms, giant rainfall 
and floodwater originating from the faraway seascapes 
which had remained on the earth. Tuva was in fact the only 
Socialist country in the world between 1920 and 1944 not 
having to share a border with a capitalist predator state. 
Nevertheless, the little country put incredible efforts into 
supporting its two Socialist sister countries in the Great 
War of the East. The state of Socialist Tuva delivered cattle 
and horses, sheep and butter to the Japanese front of 
World War II. It was a loyal member in the Socialist 
triangle alliance actively guarding the centre of Asia from 
the fascist nightmare. Only at the end of World War II it 
finally merged with the Soviet Union in one of those short 
moments in the year when the country was temporarily 
accessible to people from the outside world. 

In that very moment, I was standing in front of exactly that 
giant Mountain Range forming the border to the 
Autonomous Republic of Tuva, as it is called today. There 
was snow on the upper parts of the enormous massifs 
sticking into the dark, dark blue sky. Deep, deep down at 



124 



the expansive feet of that enormous mountain range, a 
violent, broad Asian river was groaning with a load of 
noisily clicking rocks it slowly carried downwards, towards 
the eternal ice of the polar ocean. 

Such movement had ground down the Soviet Union, I 
marvelled disbelieving at my own imagery. Inner 
contradictions you could say, yet unimaginable without the 
distant works of oceans laboriously active for the benefit of 
the destruction of everything solid that dares to stick out of 
their floods. Surely, they allow little leftish beasts to swim 
around in their depth, dreaming about mountains in the 
sun, rice paddies and horse-riding. They are harmless and 
quite entertaining idiots as long as they are content with 
themselves and do not mess around with the tectonic 
forces of real social unrest. However in a world totally 
submerged since 1991, we still know the very destructive 
forces of water to also be of use for our cause. Under the 
level of the sea, the forces of evil cannot avoid to pile up 
layer upon layer, develop formations of bizarre architecture 
and monstrous gravity which will eventually, when time is 
finally ripe, poke out of the terror of the sea and make up 
new formations, sets of entirely novel continents, 
speculative fish can only marvel at. Still today, there are 
underwater islands hilariously close to a coming out, 
Southern Mexico for example and some parts of Venezuela. 
Cuba is so closely under sea level that we are easily lead to 
believe it were a similar case. But after two rather 
suffocating winters there, I feel that it is rather caught in a 
move geologically downwards if no tectonic pressure from 
around helps it up again. Maybe Cuba didn't drop at all, 
geologically speaking. But the sea level is rising dramatically 
these years and this might account for major arts of the loss, 
t Though, some forms of live from the times Cuba once 



125 



enjoyed lavishing above sea level can still be detected 
within its shallow reefs. And there is the one fifth of India 
under Mescalite control and there are breathtaking upward 
tendencies in Nepal, Argentina, Bolivia. Well, to give a real 
tectonical assessment of our underwater world today, a lot 
more travelling would be necessary, a task for a global 
collective, not for a lonely wanderer around the Republic of 
Tuva. Though, every now and then he was caught in fits of 
jolly laughter: on meeting scarletly exploding Altaj 
mountain locusts. 

-"Just imagine how close I had come by now. Falling down 

these slopes, I would have almost touched it with my 

knees!" 

-"What are you talking about?" 

-"Siberian Atlantis, of course. Just a shift in the tectonics of 

social conflict and it will be up again to stand the fight!" 



13. immensely agitated water slowing 

down 

"Things are happening here, Martin, and we do not know 
what to think about them," four Altaj workers hiding in the 
shadow of a giant black cliff reported mysteriously. I had 
discovered them in a side valley because of their big truck. I 
had been following the river for 30 hours without the 
slightest sign of any vehicle transport. I had observed an 
Eagle from above, hunting for mice. I had thought a lot 
about my friend Udo. But now I was all anxious to relate 
with my potential saviours from this Tuva expedition into 
immeasurable solitude. 

-"What are you talking about?" I asked, having a look 
behind my back just in case it was approaching. People 



126 



having enjoyed a live -long training in shamanist and semi- 
Buddhist practices could well keep on lying and drinking 
tea, while a bigger version of the scarlet locust was already 
setting foot on my rucksack. But no, if I was to believe 
them there was presumably something even more uncanny 
and still less real approaching, my comrades assured me. 
"We have seen signs in the sky and we have felt a 
monstrous trembling in the earth." I decided to be silent 
and wait for the initiation ceremony to continue. My 
questioning could only mislead the direction they were 
clearly heading to. However, they would not say a word 
either now. So we sat and drank tea silently in the boiling 
heat of the mountain step. We were sweating like little 
devils ourselves by this time. My comrades because they 
had collected a ton of stones and brought them down in 
linen sacks from a breathtakingly steep mountain slope, me 
because I had simply lent a hand to lift some of them up on 
their truck. 

"You know Bajkonur?" One of the highland farmers 
inquired. "Yes, the cosmodrome, its in Kazakhstan though." 
-"Listen, they shoot their rockets right over our heads into 
outer space. We see them disappear there." I was in a 
chatting mood and resolved to gesticulate if need be to 
make myself understood. Altaj people are said to have no 
historical religious contamination except for basic 
shamanism and the colonial imposition of some external 
orthodox rituals. I wanted to probe the limits of their 
tolerance for metaphysical speculation. 
-"Maybe they follow Roerig, that Soviet artist's spiritual 
advice from the 1930s. He claimed that there are only two 
places on the earth allowing to get into the world above us: 
the Himalaya and the Altaj. The Chinese actually do the 
same." 
"What?" 



127 



"They also follow the Soviet advices to launch their rockets 
into cosmic space. They even had a Tajkonaut out there 
lately. There might be Chinese producing game-boys on the 
moon soon." 

My colleagues were visibly not amused and feeling rather 
uneasy on hearing that. Altaj people are not comfortable 
about China. Presently, their doubts are focussing on a 
Russian road. Being projected without their say and already 
partly realised by Russian investment, it is to cut their 
republic in two to transcend the century-old deadlock 
between English and Russian Imperialism on the Altaj high 
plateau and build a new set of pipelines and 
communication facilities linking both sides. 
"We have hold on to these mountains for thousands of 
years," one gave way to their fears. "We are few and the 
Chinese are so many. They will just wipe us away." I 
thought for a moment about the loveable Polish hysteric 
and painter Witkiewicz who, having fled successfully from 
the German invasion in 1 939, committed suicide precisely 
because he feared to be overrun by Chinese in the end. 
Obviously the most powerful modern mysticism is to 
disguise social conflict as ethnical competition. Evidently, it 
was at work all over the submarine world. Curious what 
would sediment on top of this layer once all these 
Independent Republics of Kosovo and Montenegro at 
NATO's mercy were let to go bankrupt. 
-"So you really think the earthquakes are connected with 
Russian cosmonaut missions?" 

-"Of course not directly," my friends said rationally, "but 
with atom bomb testing for sure." The last earthquake on 
the Altaj plateau was uncanny indeed. According to many 
observers, it reached an extraordinarily high level on the 
Richter scale for the region and caused almost no damage. 
The few losses were however serious because any aid 



128 



arriving in the aftermath was almost completely sucked up 
by the Republic's fraudulent political economics. In some 
valleys people still live in their banjas to the present day 
with their houses in rubbles according to local sources. 
Russians in the adjacent region say, that Altaj 
revendications for Russian rockets, throwing off cosmic 
waste on their heads, are just another hype produced by 
Republican lobby groups to smear the corrupted policies of 
the territory with possible fresh money for compensation. 
"Why did you charge only one ton of stones when the 
truck takes five easily" I tried to return our conversation to 
practical rationality. 

"My wife wants an oven. It is crazy anyway. We should all 
be down making hay. The weather is just right, it can only 
become worse. So we just take a ton and that's it. 
Furthermore," my new friend hesitated, "we do not think it 
good to take more from the mountains than what is 
necessary for us." I secretly bowed in respect. If Kiev had 
taken to this principle in the dirty hot spot of its urban 
luxuries, Chernobyl, there would probably be less cancer 
around the former Union nowadays. "This stone is very 
precious." My friends continued without me daring to 
interrupt them. "It is the property of the whole village. It 
would be inappropriate to take more than we need, say for 
selling it to a neighbour. This material retains an incredible 
amount of heat. Our village has been harvesting stones 
from here for generations. That is why there are so few 
suitable ones left to take home and we had to search the 
whole morning to get a ton together." 

We got on the open truck and I hold on to the well-known 
board in front as fast as I could. Our speed was breath- 
taking to be sure but the road followed the riverbed now. 



129 



14. two words of German 

In a poetic little wood with clear and bright water streaming 
over birch tree roots in sounds of laughter the motor 
stopped to work and the truck came to a long, long drawn 
out standstill. Everybody was prepared for this case. Petrol 
is not traded officially in these villages. It is a very scarce 
resource, similar to what awaits us in the West in a couple 
of decades. My colleagues had started with 15 litres, made 
15 km up the mountains and 14 and a half downhill and 
that was it. There was no fuel available that afternoon, no 
tractor to pull the truck either, everyone was busily making 
hay. The young husband without a proper oven who had 
been organising the excursion with his friends was starting 
to get a bit cloudy in his face. I walked with him into the 
village. In spite of a litde wooden hut with a Russian fairy- 
tale roof identifiable as an orthodox church everything 
actually reminded me of a Burmese settlement at the banks 
of a broad Asian low-land river. We went from wood house 
to wood house but there was no response. In the beginning, 
my driver still offered me to give me some bread. "Oh, no, 
I will better buy some in the village shop." I declared. He 
smiled occasionally. "Our shop sells as little bread as it sells 
fuel." Later, he forgot his offer. He was really getting very 
much concerned about not being out for haymaking. In 
this moment, I saw something very unexpected taking place 
in 100 metres distance. First a four wheel drive was passing 
the village downstream and then, I hardly believe my eyes, a 
Volga. To speak with the language of a rather primitive 
Orwell pamphlet, Volga is the car for the Soviet Pig class. 
How on earth did this car make it all these hundreds of 
kilometres through the wilderness surrounding the 
Republic of Tuva? I wondered. "They are gone, you won't 



130 



get them any more" my companion commented 
professionally. Nevertheless, I had a go and run after them 
stumbling into the most comic patches of knee-deep bogs 
within the village huts. This was my chance to hit the lake! 
This was what I had speculated for during 30 hours 
following the riverbed on my feet and now it was gone. I 
tried to wring some water and mud out of my trousers and 
met my former driver again, still on search for petrol. We 
were both not too lucky, today. I could perfectly 
understand his mood now and went away following the big 
river to my right downstream in a contemplative mood. 
That was it actually. I would not possibly be on time in 
Bijsk any more and Larissa would depart to their 
conspiratory camp site in the middle of the woods of the 
wide plains down the river without me. I had put 
camaraderie and friendship at risk for a badly-prepared little 
expedition towards the moon and now I had lost it. I went 
to the river-bank utterly subdues. The water was still 
flowing quite fast, though it was not strong enough any 
more to roll rocks with it. I through my rucksack to the left, 
stripped off my clothes and flung my body and my misery 
into the flood. My skin contracted immediately. That was 
about 7 degrees, I guessed. It did not need a lot of time to 
realise that this was not a travelling alternative to Bijsk. I 
got hold of a bit of grass on the shore luckily and walked 
back the running distance I had made with the water. "And 
now," I started to declare with a loud voice, "we will have a 
look at Heraclitus and his teachings from a practical side. 
We will try to jump in the same river once again." I 
suddenly had enormous fun with this exercise. Maybe I 
should have taken the U-turn which appeared unexpectedly 
in my life 2 years ago to become university teacher. My 
collisions with reality are of such a playful nature, that in 
the long run it needs something as crazy and far from 



131 



reality as German Academic Life to finance them, does it 
not? Well, won't probably like to jump in that greasy river 
once again, will I? And here I jumped a second time. The 
water was clear and cold as ice, I cried from joy and 
physical contraction. "Now," I declared after having gained 
ground under my feet again despite of the running flow of 
water. "I will walk throughout the night. I will not give in 
until I am not finally defeated." I had my clothes on in a 
few seconds and took back to the path almost running. Yet 
the hours were getting long on the trail and the sun was 
going down fast. There was no sight of any repletion of the 
Volga miracle. I greeted farmers on their meadows. 
Everything was getting fat and thick here, down in the 
valley. I felt like coming down towards Munich after days 
up on the Alps. The well-being of your body is embodied 
so perfectly in the big brown bodies of the affluent cows 
on affluent meadows. More than three third of the urgent 
mowing was actually done by hand. They were clearly 
fighting with time, now. Hand mowing should be done in 
the early morning, if I was to believe the accounts of Anna 
Karenina and my mother back in Europe. And indeed the 
weather did not support much confidence either. "Hellish 
work" the Agronom and son of peasants, my friend Aleksej 
would summarise the experience of 15 years of Russian 
private farming three days later. "Not a terrain, where you 
can make social experiments, actually, Martin. Maybe you 
should not put too much hope into an agricultural 
commune in these times in Russia." His words hit my head 
like a good old wine, Isaak Babel would say. How can you 
be so left an Agronomist and so realist a revolutionary at 
the same time? We have got a terrible lot to learn from you. 
We? Pampered children of the bloody colonial centres in 
modern history. 



132 



You got to the camp site of the left youth then? Yes, but 
not because of a Volga. There was a third truck, just at the 
end of the evening. It came back from throwing off a 
bunch of tourists somewhere in the periphery of Tuva and 
took me without asking any question. There was one 
possible direction: Teleckoe Lake and still a hell of a lot of 
kilometres to go. The driver and his female partner would 
go on very elaborate detours to find farmers out mowing 
and making arrangements with them for transports on the 
following day. One conversation took place over the full 
width of the river which was by now a stream of more than 
a hundred metres width. After this, we had to turn to 
reverse to the main path. But there was virtually no place to 
turn on the river shore. I really wondered whether we 
would be going back in reverse speed altogether. The driver 
accelerated impressively just to swing the driving wheel 
around and run our rear deep into the flowing icy waters. 
He then shifted gears, which took a little moment, in which 
I positively thought that we were now drifting and had lost 
ground completely. I remembered countless idiotic films on 
this issue and the immediate need to get out of the door in 
time. But we still touched ground and gained speed even 
within the water, enough to mount the slope of the beach 
and bounce back and along the trail downstream once 
again, heavily dripping though. We even picked up new 
hitch-hikers. A peasant made me retreat my "Baltic" story 
when he explained through the roaring noise of the motor 
that he had served 4 years of military service in Halle/Saale. 
That was exactly where I attempted to become a sound 
Socialist Agronomist following the winter of 1991. He 
could not tell anything about civil life though. He just 
remembered how they had freed Czechoslovakia from an 
enemy rebellion and returned home after the work being 
done. I could not imagine how to bridge the gap between 



133 



him and my friends in Prague. Somehow they were all 
sympathetic to me, and working class people all the like. 
Why would they look at one story from so different a side? 
Maybe I am theoretically just as weak as my pseudo-Maoist 
father and all this business of harmonising historic 
polarisations is not needed. I cannot tell. I will have to 
counter-check in Prague. Still, I did not know anything 
about the civil aspects of life in East Germany for an Altaj 
soldier. What did he actually do during all those 4 years 
except for pacifying Prague? Asking him directly yielded no 
result whatsoever. So I asked him what German words he 
could remember. That if anything would probably best 
characterise his intercourse with Eastern German civil life. 
Well, he actually knew two expressions in German. They 
had obviously brought him through life abroad just as 
necessary, he would reassure me. One was "let's eat" and 
the other one was "let's love". 

He got off at the next meadow, carefully carrying a huge set 
of knives for his tractor, which he had repaired for further 
mowing in a little hamlet upstream. 



15. reversing into 
running ice 

In the last beams of a splendid sun, I was set off on the 
beach of Lake Teleckoe. I was ready to kiss the earth for 
my fortunate ride or do other more helpful things. But my 
drivers would refuse to take any money. I went over a 
gleaming meadow and saw some youth writing a graffiti 
onto a block house stable. "Got you, bloody hools!" I 
barked at them from behind and really, they went red in 
their faces. We laughed and became friends on the spot. 
Later they told me a fascinating story about the "break- 



134 



through", the place, where my first truck had set me out. In 
the Brezhnev years, a single bulldozer driver was set to 
make the road down in a summer. He pushed gravel and 
drove a U-turn, pushed gravel and drove a U-turn and after 
some hundred U-turns he arrived down at the riverbed 
with right with the end of summer. So that is the story why 
I had managed to come down to Lake Teleckoe at all. 



135 



16. birch- trees of 
Sibirian Bahamas 

Zoologically speaking, parasites like me, drifting in these 
regions seem to follow gravity. Down at the shore, a lot of 
my sort seemed to have been swum in, suddenly. Actually 
the only road connection is more than a thousand 
kilometres away from the capital, taking you all around for 
a big big detour. You can come over the lake but that is 
almost a 100 km of boat ride as well. People take all this 
pain and they get a hut on the shore and then they do not 
know what to do with themselves and their heavily gained 
tranquillity. This situation is called muse and it is damned 
rare in Capitalism. So the whole of the situative shore 
population drifts into realms of intriguing Chekhovian 
boredom. That was balsam on the waves of my body and 
mind to be sure. I couldn't imagine a better way to wait for 
a ship back to Bijsk. Now, my fate was clearly not in my 
hands any more. I had arrived at the point where I could 
just let everything go as it wanted. It is a strange feeling to 
follow with a lazy glance all the excuses and imaginations 
which your mind and soul make up out of pure habit to run 
around like a stressed rabbit. In Cuba, I once had the 
illuminative intuition that we European visitors are 
physically addicted to political frustration. We just know 
everything to have gone wrong, wrong, wrong. It is 
obligatory to carry around political frustration in Europe. 
Then you arrive on the Island pointing to a better world 
and you can, if you are a careful and a honest observer, 
soon catch your assembled faculties in the operation of 
finding new pretexts to continue the old song. \It is 
actually funnier the longer you stay because you see the 
short-term visitors not changing sail to the different wind 
at all, they just fall from one line of criticism adopted in 



136 



western Europe into the same line of criticism for Eastern 
Cuba. They have of course ready-made theories on class- 
war, world and micro-economics, corruption and money, 
prostitution and their new comrades on the island. It is all 
hilariously improvised to supply them with the set of 
arguments they need to continue the old political 
understanding of work and failure. So what have I learnt 
within two years close to tropical Socialism? What have I 
learnt in 1 8 hours waiting at the Southern shore of Lake 
Teleckoe? I have not yet learnt to explain much more than 
any newcomers, but I do have learnt to ask some more 
questions than before. That is a nice little piece of progress. 

There was a striking contrast between the un- 
pretentiousness of the place tended by an Altaj-Russian 
working collective. Some wooden huts for a limited 
number of guests stood close to the shore. Wide open 
spaces save from the rain had been created using nothing 
else but wood. One of them was an Altaj pagoda, really 
closer to the Southern Chinese, than to the Russian 
meaning of the word. It was so musically placed on a hill 
among a sea of wild coastal birch-trees that none of the 
land-rover New-Russian guest killing their time before 
restarting their cars to return to Novosibirsk would ever set 
foot into them. They set foot into everything else, though. 
For me there was still a task before abandoning body and 
mind to perfectly helpless idleness waiting for a ship. I had 
to wash my brushes, they had been in use without cleaning 
from the Ural excursion onwards. Roughly speaking I had 
been painting an oil painting every day since then. However 
some of the less popular brushes had fallen out of use 
without me noticing it. Their bank of oil colour within not 
being refreshed, they were already painstakingly stiff. For 
me, brushes mean what the animals mean in the farm 



137 



behind the woods of the tales collected by Brother Grim. 
They are to be served first when settling down for a rest. 
No way to think about a treat for you if they have not got 
their due treat yet. I was quite desolate. I would wash for an 
hour with mild soap and cold water I had to pump up. I 
tried to warm the detergent under the work of my fingers. 
Well, I had failed for some of them, It looked. I had been 
proven a bad guest in the farmstead behind the woods. It 
was already getting dark when Irina stepped into the scene. 
Once in 2002, a communal panting festival of ours in 
Estonia was blasted up with incredibly sophisticated 
Russian intrigues and rivalry from a Byelorussian painter 
called Irina. I was warned to the utmost, though her sister 
was roughly double her age. There are some basic faculties 
in people, they are not apt to give up. There is Eva for 
example, will she ever give up the convenience of that 
hellish sexist idolatry her Ukrainian environment builds up 
around her little body of two and a half wherever she sets 
foot? How can she? The effects of spoiling with adoration 
are meant to stay and they do stay. "Listen carefully when 
they start to praise you, you might get out of it more stupid 
than you are likely to notice still yourself." This utterly 
Protestant prophecy by my mother is a guiding star just as 
if it came right over from Melbourne or Southampton. 
Another one to complete it is missing, we will get it 
unexpectedly in chapter 25. 

"Brushes with old oil paint are to be washed with pure 
sunflower oilseed" Novosibirsk Irina said amiably, stepping 
before me out of the dark. And then she continued with a 
chattering frankness. "I put mine in a tin with sunflower 
oil." And admitted, "well it does not do them any good if 
they remain in there used for a very long time. I am Irina, 
by the way." This stout lady of about 50 held out her hand 
to shake mine. I had to take a little step back. She was 



138 



talking Russian and thus relating so freely as only very 
experienced women in the United States manage to, 
drawing from centuries of women's liberation movement, 
and well, and the pioneer experience I have tried to sketch 
in Heidelberg. For 20 years now, people have been 
watching me wash my brushes with a method, I taught to 
myself from an old German book and nobody would care 
to pass over anything more than a distant laugh about my 
efforts to keep the brushes save from the aggressive 
chemical impact of terpentine. And here, in the 
insinuatingly mild night wind under the birch-trees 
somebody came out of the dark to care as much for my 
labour as to tell me about hers. This was extraordinary. 
Irina offered some sunflower oil from her car. And this was 
definitely the point, a set of stupid responses by me began. 
They would continue throughout the night and into the 
next day. I have collected such a fluffy stock of addresses 
that I have to paint little portraits next to the name to be 
able to associate even so central new acquaintances as 
Larissa in the last months of travel. But somehow, I did not 
take the address of Irina. I am really cross with me for that 
failure. She definitely wanted to dance with me under the 
wide wooden roof on the sandy hill. I was taken aback 
again. But I was in dirty work suit clothes. Russian classism 
would normally rule out any intimacy with you. Once you 
walk around in a greasy work suite, you find out that their 
habitual xenophobia is nothing in comparism to their 
classism. They are really arrogant towards any working- 
class markers as only the superior class of shop-keepers in 
Naples or Polish middle-class on a church Sunday can be. 
Something like a European record, to be sure. "But, to the 
contrary" Irina answered with sovereign amusement. 
"Don't you know that today is the day of the building 
worker? It is my day as well, by the way, I am an Architect. 



139 



Promise me to come to the dance floor to join our little 
reception banquet as soon as you have put your brushes in 
order." While she was disappearing, I wondered why I had 
been messing around with women under 40 at all in my life. 
Life seems so terribly short and it is close to criminal 
negligence to throw yourself into the arms of inexperience 
altogether. Or maybe this practical grip of the elder Irina is 
just a precious gift she received from Soviet socialisation. 
For men acquaintances in Russia, I have found out that the 
year of birth 1958 seems to be the last limit. Everybody 
born later has become a professional cynic before even 
maturing to an age of adulthood. Some of them never 
reach it. Socially, Russian men seem a failure in 90% of all 
cases I could ever come close to. It is utter success which 
provokes them to grow an ti- social. I imagine it to be a 
monstrous set of dubious favours done to them, of the 
type my mother allowed to happen when not instructing 
me to wipe the floors I was using. 

I got some oil from the kitchen. It was used frying oil 
mixed with new frying oil, probably rapeseed. It was a total 
failure. I had another hour to get it off again and would 
only finally succeed the other day with a clear and operative 
mind. I would then stumble into the banquette for our 
trade on the sandy hill among the birch trees, inertly 
wincing into myself because I had messed up my brushes, 
the tools of my working trip. 

Of this banquette, I remember only one nice detail, that I 
risked a scandal and ate the fish from Irina's plate which 
was much better than what they were giving us. The 
banquette was a show for Irina's "brother", really. A failed 
man, I am sure to say. In this case, I would clearly opt for 
regime change. He is a leading commander in the 
Novosibirsk police force and a self-made man of incredibly 



140 



gross manners. He is moneyed, though a state servant. He 
would openly praise himself for privatising all the efficient 
parts of the police's economical empire. He would direct all 
eyes of the reception's company to Irina and me crying at 
the top of his drunken voice "We want to see you dance, 
you two!" And some time later, he would remark with the 
characteristic unheeding brutality of his work-place "Will 
get less stiff, this German, once my sister caresses his dick, 
I suppose." I took that without so much as a smile. But I 
would imply him in a conversation at the top of our 
cultured voices, going diagonally through the company of 
the night. "I have picked some nice, juicy pieces of 
Marihuana up there in the mountains. How much will you 
give me for that, once you catch me in Novosibirsk?" He 
became astonishing factual despite of his drinking. "I will 
give you five years of prison if you only use it yourself." He 
retorted. "Whereas, in the case you sell it to others, you will 
get something up to 15." This was clearly sufficient. There 
was no joking about his being terribly jealous of Irina. I 
knew that he would be able to search my hut with his 
inferiors that same night. And being indeed too much of a 
German in this case as he had so insinuatingly remarked for 
quite another, I had told the truth and nothing but the truth 
about my exceptionally attractive harvest from the high 
Altaj. So now was the time to kiss Irina's experienced hands 
for a fare-well, get into running to my hut as soon as the 
dark of the birch-trees had firmly enveloped me and fish all 
the green branches out of my rucksack. They were so full 
of summer's heavy perfume as to incense the whole 
rucksack with a comforting and promising smell. It was a 
real pity to have betrayed them. I just hoped their analytics 
were too primitive to distil anything out of the cloth of the 
rucksack. Asking myself where to put it, I occasionally tried 
if my neighbouring hut, where Irina and her "brother" were 



141 



to sleep, was locked. It was not. I lifted up the red divan on 
their floor, in a faintly smiling moonlight breaking through 
their window. Everything was silent. This was a jolly good 
burial place for the precious green, I cheered myself up. 
Just imagine the headline tomorrow in Novosibirsk. "Head 
of municipal police forced discovered with unknown 
woman and 250 gram of pure Marihuana in an Altaj hut" I 
went to sleep. And as in 13000 and one previous nights of 
my life, nobody would delicately knock on my door, of 
course. 



17. Honey, Honey, and another night 

awake 

On the next morning familiarity and boredom among the 
company on the site reached veritably Chekhovian 
dimensions. I came to sit next to Irina on the long 
breakfast table. I told her that I had left her the night 
before to prevent her "brother" from cracking down on my 
hut with his employees. "I have a brother myself, Irina" I 
assured her. "I know that they can sometimes be terribly 
jealous and that would not have been in keeping with our 
"holiday of the building trades", would it." Irina answered 
calmly that I had been perfectly right and that brothers are 
sometimes just a jealous lot indeed. 

The policeman now insisted on taking me on a boat tour, 
he would sponsor generously for his "sister". Hiring boats 
is incredibly expensive on that corner of Russia. I guessed 
what his sudden good-nature towards me was stemming 
from and thanked politely. 



142 



Maybe now, it was me who was a bit jealous after all. You 
might probably call it just a professional health risk if you 
have finished university some 12 years ago and you are 
actually still tramping around as an underperforming artist 
without a fixed place of abode. 

I took my rucksack, still smelling with promising affluence 
lost. Someone had told me that I had to go straight north 
to find the place where a boat might come today or 
tomorrow. Well tomorrow was too late. Today was bingo, 
though. I went straight and came to the shore of the lake 
after 20 metres. I returned to ask a very young Altaj woman 
who had taken curious interest in my drawing the night 
before. She was actually the manager of the place and 
though not much more than a third of age in comparison 
to the stout, blonde architect getting on the boat now, she 
was a very reliable and settled personality. "You have to go 
through the water." She said. I believed her everything, yet 
having arrived at my rucksack, I took care to strip of all my 
clothes, just in case the water would be a bit deep after the 
rain of the last weeks. I still did not know what I should 
head for. A little sand bank was some 40 metres out in the 
lake so I made my way straight. The first five steps got the 
icy water up to my stomach, the following fife up to my 
ears and there was no halt in sight. Lake Teleckoe is up to 
almost 400 metres deep, I learnt later. There was no sense 
in taking my rucksack on such a walk over water. So I 
carefully put on some clothes so as not to offend the young 
Altaj manager and returned back to the reception. "I went 
straight and, believe me or not, the water was further up 
than my knees." I would not quite like to admit to her to 
what extent I had actually trusted her words and that there 
was excessive water in my ears from her advice. She 
laughed as only Altaj people can laugh in Russia, with a soft 



143 



and melodious, utterly Asian delicacy, reminding your 
senses of the touch of a light feather. "No, not straight in 
the literal sense. Of course you follow the underwater bank 
taking the detour to the right." I went back, saying good-by 
to her for a third time but without any routine as I noticed 
with a subtle ring of uncomfortability. It was then, that I 
saw the motor boat paid for with manoeuvres of privatising 
the public police force of Novosibirsk swimming out of the 
bay in an elegant curve. It was then, that I understood that 
I had not taken Irina's address. I had felt just too familiar 
with her to bother about anything of the sort. Well, here 
they went off. I regretted not to have been a bit more 
selfish and used the offer for a lift on the boat to get to this 
damned sand bank before me. It's complete extensions 
were concealed by a set of bushes growing out of the lake. 
The water was higher than normal, that was for sure. I 
searched for traces and I found deep imprints of four- 
wheel car tires under the surface of the water. Indeed, these 
traces were taking a bold right curve towards the sand bank. 
I guess, I really came under water this time only because 
the car traces I followed were very deep. Apart from that, 
the trail got me over brilliantly. I obviously knew whom I 
could trust. The sand bank turned out to be a lengthy 
peninsula of half a kilometre. Wood bleached by months in 
the water was piling up on the beach. I was looking 
forward to a good fire to warm me through my waiting 
hours. I did not quite know which point of the peninsular 
was the one where boats would eventually hit it. But taking 
into account the steep slopes of several hundred, up to a 
thousand metres making up the shore of the lake and not 
allowing even an official foot pass to go along the major 
part of its hundreds of kilometres of shorelines, I judged 
that the place where the sandy peninsula stemmed off from 
this bold shoreline was probably the one with the deepest 



144 



water here where sediments from the broad river were 
piling up in the most incomprehensible forms. I could not 
tell why I felt so much alike to the days I hitch-hiked from 
Cuba to the US over the Bahamian islands. I had stolen a 
piece of extraordinary luxury with bare foot travelling that 
was for sure. I was appalled by the New/Russians bossing 
around the young and incredible Altaj manager of the place 
to serve them at the banquet as much as I was appalled by 
the moneyed tax-invaders gathering in this elect space from 
all over the world who would not even care about the 
homeless natives under their bridges. The natives were fed 
with Anglo-Saxon Christianity and an appalling lack of 
education as compared to the Cuban proletariat and that 
was obviously enough to keep them down in that tax-haven 
of painful affluence. 

I had rebelled then, agitating people under the bridge, on 
night-shifts in the harbour. I had told them about Cuba and 
they were listening with interest. One post woman, a stout 
black Bahamian native asked me if I had heard about this 
dinosaur issue. Nobody had told her at school that it was 
actually a well-established fact of biological science. They 
would probably be very British and behave politically 
correct towards creationist fanatics of the various sects 
operating on the lack of proper education of the Isles. Yet, 
their understanding was vivid and fresh, they would be able 
to have hilariously educated discussions with any Afro- 
Cuban if they just let them have basic access to the 
weapons of bourgeois knowledge of the world. They would 
not. However, nearly everyone on the Bahamas would be 
able to tell what Cuba was. It was only in the United States 
on trying to agitate El Salvadorian illegal workers, that I 
came across adult minds who were not able to associate the 
word Cuba with anything. Well, that is US society, the most 



145 



classist educational management of the world. The post 
woman on the Bahamas had grasped the sting of the 
dinosaur story in the flesh of creationist sects all around her 
with such a vivid mind as the Altaj stone farmers had 
swallowed their rulers idle lobbying on Baikonur 
compensation money. "Dinosaurs, big, big creatures. Did 
God make them and not like them?" she would ask me in 
the dialectical clarity only Pidgin English can produce in 
this world, with her wide black eyes fully attentive, opened 
towards me. And then she would come to the very essence 
of Marxist methodology asking firmly "How can that be?" I 
tried my best to spur her asking. I did not quite succeed. 
Instead, she started to send love letters over to Europe 
which for the first time in my life, well not counting a flute 
player in Florence, make me go through that painful and 
hopeless feeling of deprivation I must have caused others 
without really knowing in sending them helpless love letters. 
I have been very careful with love letters since. They seem 
in a sense to block a process of coming to a better 
understanding of the world. And how can we possibly 
relate in a better way if we do not understand so much 
more than we do today? 



18. cold, wide rivers 

I did get the boat. I did get it in time. I did manage to cut 
the price half. I did get fabulous lifts down to Bijsk. I even 
got a bottle of fine honey to bring along. But I did not get 
to the comrade I had hoped to find. 

Bijsk was all aloof, perfectly relaxed and lazy in a bath of 
disconcentrated summer evening air, something I did not 
quite associate with Siberia by now. During my days and 



146 



nights on the roof of Asia, my senses had opened up to her. 
I would be ready to listen to her not talking. I would have 
been ready for being silent altogether. I had nothing to say 
to her any more. There was a bit of reporting to be done, 
but I would get through that with a supreme sense of 
economics for words. My consciousness was ripe enough 
to just melt in her presence and heed to her. My faculty of 
observation had fortunately not yet melted alongside, so 
after watching whom I had met again for two minutes, I 
hastily put on a veritably childish drill to make myself 
appear a normal visitor who has come from a normal week- 
end trip to go to a normal little occasion to meet friends 
down near Barnaul. In the end, I did not need anything else, 
did I. After half an hour, I marvelled at my success. I had 
successfully taken the air out of everything. Even the honey 
I brought was nothing. They had just the same bottle of 
honey standing already on their kitchen table. They had 
been in the high Altaj as well. I was not surprised to learn 
that their honey was by far tastier than the one I had 
become so excited about. Larissa would not go to the 
allotment with me any more, so I went with her mother. 
This mother was a hilariously agile and jolly company. 
Within five minutes she had scanned my entire civil 
position in life. Married? No. Divorced? No. Children? 
None. None? None. Fixed plans? None. There was a little 
pause and into the void of the on-setting evening she 
sighed: "So, why do you make such a fuss?" I vaguely 
thought, she could mean us two and agreed tacitly. 

In the night, she took me out with her for seeing off a best 
girl-friend of hers. A silent thunderstorm had set upon the 
summer town and my senses were all open to its radiating 
lightening and changes of air. We tacitly returned to the 
shelter of our half of the flat and I lay down in well-known 



147 



landscapes of raspberry-mountains. I was afraid to make 
any movement in the cushions, fearing to keep her awake, 
which would have been inappropriate. Her movements on 
the contrary would not let me sleep at all. This time, her 
mere breathing rhythm coming faintly through the open 
door from the adjacent room would not let me close an eye 
for a minute that night. I did not regret anything. I did not 
really want anything. Any faculty of commiseration was 
perfectly put at naught with all the others. I was bleeding 
silently with my senses all laid open and I was content with 
the standstill. I calmly waited for the tension of the night, 
this unbearable lightening and not thundering, to pass into 
oblivion. Oblivion, though, was never to be found. I stood 
up in the morning with a feeling of comic gratefulness. I 
had come through another night of my life. Sometimes this 
seems so terribly difficult, every step in time seems so 
unbearably to do at all that in the course, I positively doubt 
to make it to the end. However, I sincerely believe that 
actually dying would still feel quite different. It must be 
something in-between, then. But here I was and the 
morning light as well, we had made it against all odds. I had 
spent 6 hours without doing anything, when everything I 
could have done including all the possible consequences 
would have been much, much easier to support, I believed. 

There was a little superficial satisfaction of the type 
Pushkin celebrates. In fact, in the course of a week, her 
father had not addressed me a single time, had not looked 
into my eyes and not even said a greeting. In a certain 
bourgeois sense this was a bit rude, actually. I knew my 
own father perfectly well enough to know that he could 
treat any visitor of my sister like that, disregarding her 
emotions altogether. This was most probably plain and 
hilariously unreflected jealousy and she did agree with my 



148 



guess. I had to address it anyway. I had to take the initiative 
and make a point of it, because I feared she might be tacitly 
sorry for it if we would not address it and secretly laugh 
about him together. 

So we went off from home. Quite probably, I would never 
return in my life, but who knows? My muscles were feeling 
rather unfit to stick to their bones. Nerves were going 
painfully through this disco-ordinated lump of flesh 
shivering irritably from time to time. In German, we have a 
very funny expression for such a state, we call it "ein 
Haeufchen Elend" — a cute little lump of misery. In Barnaul, 
we took the river boat on the Ob. We went for ages on 
these wide, wide waters. It was freezing cold. I leant 
alternatingly on her laps and on her shoulders with my will 
falling very low under the throbbing progression of 
exhaustion. I think it was not only a bliss for me to get a 
little warmth from the closeness of another body. There 
was a climatic need for a certain degree of intimacy and as 
every materialistically founded argument, she would heed 
to it without exchanging unnecessary words on the topic. 
How amazing that there are 72 hours of rest ahead, I said 
to my self secretly with the feeling of guilt, that this was 
politically quite incorrect. But the prospect of not having to 
change place and drag your luggage for four days and three 
nights on end was just too attractive after my Marathon 
over 3000 km of Siberia. For two weeks now, from Lena's 
place in Moscow onwards, actually, there had not be a 
single night's rest at the same place where I had been 
resting the night before. I was getting positively out of my 
senses with an over-dose of Roma essence. Judging from 
the rain and the weather forecast, I knew that the whole 
camp would probably swim in mud and water. I expected it 
to have poor meals and loud nights and in spite of 



149 



everything, I approached it like an undeserved four star 
accommodation. Personally, I did not need a glimpse of 
politics to make it attractive to me. I was just content with 
the chance, not to move physically, and, well, and be 
somehow close, in a measurable numbers of metres, close 
to her. Half-sleeping on her sisterly shoulder it was now 
standing clear before my eyes that we were heading for 
genuine collision if I did not succeed to knock my bodily 
affection for her out by myself in the very first round. As it 
turned out, she would assist me perfectly in this task. It felt 
a bit dump inside afterwards but the culprit was indeed 
lying knocked off on the floor and my interest in political 
discussion and analysis could take his place with an air of 
not knowing what had been done in the first row to let her 
have it all, centre-stage and the cheers of the audience. 

Only during one night, after being allowed a very, very nice 
dance and refused the following, the one knocked off so 
cleverly by the combined effort of the two of us stood up 
to a kind of zombie existence and wandered through the 
grey spaces of the empty darkness, an eye-sore to look at 
and to listen to, I guess. With a certain formal good- 
heartedness, she would then offer me to go for a walk 
together and speak, "if it is really that bad." This was all 
done publicly in the attentive space of a tent with her and 
three other comrades who could put their own and not in 
the least negligible affection for Larissa in a much more 
becoming and chevalresque wording than I could. On 
Zauberberg, they had at least some pulomaria to excuse the 
visible effects of a Russian aristocrat, I joked to myself. 
And I remembered a rather brutal invention out of a recent 
Dostoevsky performance put on a bombastic scene in a 
truly Wagnerian spirit of Russomania by Hans Castorp in 
the Volksbuehne am Rosa Luxemburg-Platz where a none 



150 



the less black-eyed Russian actress utters the raging war-cry 
"7 German pigs against the Russian beauty!" I was not 
amused by my acute feeling of sea-sickness and thought it 
would indeed not be explainable if I started vomiting right 
inside of the tent. I felt the collective waiting for my answer. 
Would I take the hand stretched out in comradeship with a 
feeling not matching her nobility? Yes, I would. So I said "I 
do not want to get on peoples nerves here." That would 
have been the perfect occasion for her to retort merrily, 
that I did not get on their nerves at all, that I was a stranger 
yes, but they could excuse my inappropriate emotionality as 
the unfortunate but excusable result of not having gone 
through the strict school of Russian comradery. She could 
have said something of that sort, or something more 
socialisable or something less socialisable or a joke 
reflecting the absurdity of the position I had manoeuvred 
myself in on the wide and cold waters of the Ob. 

But actually, she deliberately chose to say nothing at all. I 
was quite at the end of my whit. My socialisation has not 
equipped me with the practical knowledge how to get 
through a Siberian winter. It simply makes me go cold. I 
listened into the half-hour of silence spanning through the 
dead of the night with growing concern. So every word I 
had said in baroquely polemical intention was just right, my 
principally joyous affection for my comrade, ready to step 
back just on command, was actually a nuisance for the 
collective. Not even my male neighbours would come to 
rescue me, let's say for keeping up appearances. 
Appearances in general are not really an issue in Russian 
commons of a proletarian making. Instead, my male fellow- 
sleepers would be so delicate as not to mingle in the tacit 
test of forces between me and her. They would not even 
more than just giggle jollily to themselves. I dragged myself 



151 



out of the tent in the end, carried myself to the next bush 
where I sincerely hoped to be far enough away from any 
waking ear. I felt perfectly like vomiting still, but I 
discovered, that I had only tears to loose. The convulsions 
of my body however were quite comparable. Finally, a 
sensation of the cold of the night and a certain realist 
stupor would take over in my body again. When I came 
back to the tent, she would be awake. "Why don't you 
sleep?" She asked with a definitely reproachful air now. 
"Love", I said defencelessly. "What?" she inquired with 
some disbelief and a little ring of revulsion in her voice, 
subdued to allow those who slept not to witness this. 
"Love. What do you think?" I repeated and hated myself 
for having taken resort to a worthless piece of conventional 
kitsch. But I was truly tired of it by then. Again there was 
no answer and I would not even wait any more. 

A rather sarcastic answer reached me next morning. We 
were truly bathing in floods of cold water by that time, 
which poured down in never ending cascades from a 
darkish grey sky. The amount of rain would finally promote 
a certain sense of humour within my spirits, as I was not 
sorry to observe. 

Again, women would take to the dishes and the male 
comrades to the birch-tree firewood, the only one burning 
under rain, the one and only consolation in Russia's 
seemingly never-ending misery. So I would again rebel 
against gender division of work and challenge. Larissa, who 
was facilitating a lot of these works, was visibly and 
generally tired of me by then and conceded after a 
discussion: "All right, you will dry the dishes with the girls." 
Drying is "poloskaf (thanks Shirley for the language 
proofreading)". In Polish this means becoming physically 



152 



intimate. I did not know what I was doing in Russian 
language, but that is just the way you move around in a 
foreign system of connotations. "I have no objection at all, 
to engage in drying with the girls," I retorted with a 
complicating, probably a little old-fashioned grammatical 
construction, which I almost surely got wrong. On her 
going away, I heard a sarcastic sigh of hers. It was a bit in 
the mode of her mother but not quite as sympathetic. "I do 
have noticed that, I can tell you!" it went. We were over 
with it all, then. We were ready for engaging in politics. 



19. rebels ready for the countryside? 

I remember watching the faces and limbs, the eclectic 
pieces of uniforms from the Columbian FARC-EP to 
ordinary US-army store outlets. I remember hearing the 
voices go round in this collective of 30. I remember the 
first smiles and laughter I managed to register. I remember 
watching some girls taking apart an automatic riffle and 
potting it back in form within seconds. It was all very new 
for me, who had gone through a hell of a lot of Christian 
singing and bourgeois pacifism at that age, but knew 
Marxism-Leninism exclusively from history-books and 
much-admired Kurdish radicals hibernating in the bloody 
provincial town I had to go to school to in Western 
Germany. 

I heard them talk about other youth movements, some of 
them were present in the camp and it sounded quite 
sensible. They made no compromise with fascists, 
chauvinists or related patriots of any kind, though they 
were sometimes using the word "patriotic" in a sense you 
could never clarify to the left of Western Europe. They had 



153 



sober but amiable criticism for Trotzskyite techniques and 
felt most closed to Anarchists actually. I reckon the biggest 
problem on the Russian left is not Anarchophobia, but that 
most Russian Anarchists are everything but left. They are in 
general kids of the middle-classes with hilariously 
consumerist expectations towards life. All the while, they 
would think it too direct a way to follow their parents and 
become liberal right away, so they become libertarian for 
the interval until starting to build middle-class families 
themselves. These interesting rebels against conventions are 
the closest allies of Russian Communists. For Russian 
Communists have a potent and powerful enemy. One of 
their most suffocating enemies is a monstrous system of 
command and control, a marazm of petty-bourgeois 
mediocrity and greasy, opportunistic loyalty to the army, to 
Russian capital, to the Putin dictatorship. I am talking of 
course about the Communist Party itself. 

I had come to the main fraction numbers of communist 
youth active in Russia today. In the terms of correct 
fractionology they must be called Zyuganov-partition. I was 
now comfortable to learn that they were actually among the 
most active anti- Zyuganovists active in the country. Those 
of them having formal function and income inside the 
revolting party body are organised informally, well linked 
and communicating throughout the year to give life to an 
inner-party opposition. This opposition inside of the 
Communist party is lively, theoretically sophisticated, 
willing to discus with more consistent anti-party positions 
and taking part in the alterglobalist movement of Europe 
actively ignoring party orders and even counter- acting them. 
I listened to a wide variety of inside horror stories about 
the bourgeoisation of their Communist party. During our 
last night together, when I voiced the malignant prophecy 



154 



that the day could be close, when class war made it 
necessary, as Mao had put it, to "bomb our own party 
headquarter", they agreed with a noticeably long-standing 
wrath. They are professionals is as much as to 
professionally subdue their intense anger for the time being 
to be able to counter-function within the apparatus, but it 
really seems ready to be mobilised for a final division when 
time is ripe. There is one even more serious political enemy 
in the country: the Putin administration and its incomplete 
alliance with national capital. My comrades vary in their 
analysis of the dynamics this capital can develop. You can 
say that those working closer to the centre in Moscow tend 
to see the possibility of an orange revolution show being 
sponsored jointly with the West for the 2008 elections as 
we have witnessed in Ukraine 2004 and Byelorussia 2006, 
the consequences of which can be summed up as a tragedy 
in the first case and a farce in the second. Russian capital 
could go for full neo-liberalism and sell-out of the 
remaining national resources in this scenario. The present 
dictator would then be backed up by a dubious so-called 
"Eurasian" movement which promotes the primitivistic 
Putinist plot that everything is bad in Russia, but the tsar is 
good. People based in the Lower Altaj region would say 
that Russian capital is not independent enough to mount an 
orange opposition. According to the sources closer to 
Moscow however, there could actually be a show down. 
"Come to Russia in 2008," they would say, "There will be 
pompous mobilisation for blue and orange leadership. 
There might be some unexpected change in that." In the 
next sentence, they would point out, however, that the 
Communist party will be most loyally and most boringly 
sticking to the traditionally falsified election procedures 
anyway. "They will send our rank and file stick election 
propaganda and explain where to make a cross while others 



155 



crash over the real future division of power over Russia." 
In 1996, this division of roles between capital and its 
auxiliary stabilising forces within the established 
Communist party were amounting to a farce, indeed. It was 
clear for all insiders that Zyuganov and the Communist 
Party of the Russian federation had factually won the 
election for presidency. Nonetheless, Zyuganov would 
negotiate a deal, conceding victory to El'cin and 
negotiating a strong Duma fraction instead. It was in this 
year, that Larissa's father had finally torn apart his party 
membership card. But he retained the little container for it. 
When Larissa was already on a masters course for 
Politology in Moscow and taking the final steps to become 
a member of the Communist party with the help of two 
Barnaul comrades, he would pass over his empty container, 
so that she might use it on her further way through politics. 
This way lead her to work in the State Duma. She is active, 
1 8 hours a day as it seems, and even a considerable part of 
her modest Bijsk holidays for a partieless member of the 
Chamber, the delegate for Omsk. As a blind man, he is 
entitled to get help from 4 assistants altogether. His main 
concern is educational policies. "And we have done a deal 
just before going on holidays ourselves," Larissa would 
admit guiltily. "Why?" "The student holidays were on and 
the government was putting on a most perfidious reform to 
be able to privatise higher education assets against the 
constitution, declaring them to be 'independent' instead of 
'stately'. According to an old compromise negotiated with 
the privatisation mafia of El'cin times, you cannot privatise 
state higher education. But you could, formally, do just the 
same by declaring state higher education to be independent." 
"So what was your deal?" "We analysed our potential to 
mobilise against this attack. It was well-timed indeed. We 
would have to mobilise student resistance right in the great 



156 



break of the summer. It would have been an up-hill battle 
indeed, but we would have done that, if need be. And 
probably with very poor results. So, we made Zyuganov call 
Putin." "The leader of the Communist party talks to the 
head of a capitalist dictatorship on the phone?" "What do 
you think, they are part of the establishment. They have to 
be in close contact to do business. So we used that to 
threaten and Putin resigned to force it through this summer 
already." "What is the compromise about it. That is the way 
we worked at Greenpeace to stop the most disgusting 
multinationals doing worse than average. It is normal 
campaigning within the ruling set of power. That would be 
the way for a possible take-off, I hoped as long as I still 
hoped for Greenpeace." "But mind, we did a deal. We 
promised to stop our public attacks." "It did however 
combine well to allow you a little holiday once in the year, 
didn't it?" 

The work with the regional Komsomolsk association, a 
structure independent of party membership, heads in a 
different direction though. Formally you should leave the 
association at the age of 28, normally to become a party 
member then. Functionaries can stay until the age of 40. 
There is that general problem of youth organisations that 
youth does not stay young in a numerical sense of the word 
and ageist limits are inadequate to define a political working 
space anyway. I got the impression, that youth is a code 
word for radical. Young communists in Russia are radical 
communists. Not, though, in the understanding of the 
party. The youth secretary of the party would not bother to 
come out into the rain until the very last day. He hardly 
arrived in time to precede the police which was already 
heavily insisting on the party apparatus to betray the 
location of the venue. 



157 



Contemporary Communist Youth in Russia clearly flirts 
with the concept of anti-capitalist guerrilla. This flirt may 
be false, it may be a hype, it may be necessary and it is 
certainly acutely dangerous for all of us involved. Concepts 
of Maoist inspired advancements from outside of the 
highly privatised metropolitan and industrial strongholds, 
as in the cases of Cuba 1958 or Columbia today, have a 
definite importance, even in more reflected analytical 
discussions. This can be due to the fact that the industrial 
base of the country has been actually reduced to a third- 
world-country. All the time, there is still a relatively high 
level of professional education on the one hand and natural 
resources to be exploited for hardly processed and little 
value-generating exports. 



20. advancing within a collective of 

brilliant practice 

From the stop of the river boat to the camp site, we had to 
go some three hours through the woods stretching without 
interruption over more than a hundred kilometres between 
Barnaul and Bijsk. Our colleague V. was already waiting at 
the pier. He has made the way to us and back with us to a 
total of 6 hours walking for letting us have some company 
during the last part of our trip. Though he is approaching 
50 years of age and has some problems with his spine, he 
would positively want to take my my rucksack containing a 
clarinet, a computer and many other heavy things I had 
hardly the occasion or the peace of mind to use during the 
ensuing 4 days. 



158 



Beside our domestic tasks, there were be presentations and 
discussions and , most important, simulation games. We 
simulated how to organise a semi-legal street-action with a 
hell of a lot of police around and activist rank-and-files 
infested with spies and provocateurs. In one word, training 
for political basics in today's Russia. We got police beatings 
and unfair trials. We were even shown by the hilarious 
invention of the police actors how easy it is to smuggle 
Marihuana into someone's possession to lock him away for 
really long. Well, that detail failed to strike me as anything 
new, to be honest. For the next day, some even thought 
about simulating feudal society for one day. This would not 
be put into practice. I am still more sorry for the aborted 
simulation of communist society during at least one day. It 
did not take place either. To be honest, we had the 
possibility in our hands to make it really happen. All the 
factors of late capitalism in Russia were there: a 
marginalised proletariat, hidden away in the woods, the 
place around the fireside being out for sale. Alcohol as a 
revenue for policemen, arresting people unwilling to work 
for a soup a day. Somehow, I fell into the role of a 
producer of cultural trash for sale. These artefacts were 
partly hailing capitalism so bluntly that they would be 
smuggled into the prison by the wife of an oligarch, 
Natasha, to stir up rebellion. When I was finally arrested 
for subverting the existing order, I became friends with a 
group of rather intellectually aloof oppositional women. 
Making use of an amnesty before the staging of an election- 
farce by our rulers, we associated to form a politically 
operating opposition. All the while, we were ignorant about 
the working population. We did not really have them 
before our eyes, they were hidden away in their endless 
tasks of preparing meals they would hardly be allowed to 



159 



eat and getting firewood for a fire they could not afford to 
sit at. 

In retrospect, I see this day as the consistent development 
of a most realist failure and in fact a perfect humiliation of 
our concept of the left without organically linking with 
working-class interest. Yet the course of action was still 
much more curved and indirect. Exacdy in this crucial 
moment of building up the network to strike at the centre 
of power — the exploitative working relations — we were 
called off to attend the audience of Lower Altaj's member 
of Parliament. I do not recall his name. His appearance 
altogether was a farce. Politically and even as a mere 
counterpart for chat. I remember Larissa sitting deaf silent 
in defiance. He talked to us like a father after numerous 
strokes of Brezhnevian Alzheimer would to a bunch of 
kindergarten rascals who would not listen to him anyway. 
After the depute had taken the only sensible consequence 
and retreated to roar off with his four-wheel drive without 
really saying good-bye to anybody, I stormed to Larissa to 
open her mouth for the first time in half an hour. After all 
this was the kind of people, she was sacrificing her years for, 
with the exception of those lonely two fraction members 
outside of the Communist party discipline, the only one's 
you can call left within GosDuma in any sensible 
understanding of the word. And still, Larissa was a party 
member. How did this compare to the anti-climax we had 
just witnessed? "This type of men," she would slowly say 
and I could hear a bitter undercurrent in her speech, "are 
actually good-natured, still." I opened up my ears. How 
would she set the nail. She set it brilliantly. Nothing would 
remain to be said about this any more for the rest of the 
camp. "With their stories and opinions," she continued, 
slowly, taking up verve and speed, "they should be sent to a 



160 



men-only fishing afternoon. But not to parliament, for 
Christ's sake!" 

We resumed our play as if having returned from the toilet. 
Nobody lost a word on the procedure. Yet, to give true 
account for colleagues in the West, who will inevitably 
condemn me for socialising with "Zyuganov" youth at all, I 
should take the pain to note the following. This 
representative of hundreds of thousands of Communist 
votes rallied by 4000 party members in Lower Altaj had 
displayed utmost satisfaction with the military policy of the 
regime. He had expressed his personal feeling of gratitude 
to the Putin administration, for using professional soldiers 
to kill and get killed in one of the most profitable money- 
machines of the Russian mafia, the fake -war in Chechnya. 
Nonetheless, he praised himself for pressuring the 
government to increase the percentage of compulsory 
conscripts in the Russian army. Nonetheless, he had a 
concept for the careers of young women to vote for him as 
well. He had claimed all female bodies in the camp-site as 
legitimate baby-producing machines for satisfying his 
genuinely social-Darwinist passion about the need to 
multiply the Russian race. I guess that any slightly feminist 
audience in Western Europe would have positively lynched 
him at that point. Yet, upon request from the audience, he 
had contradicted any political preference for working-class 
interests, and instead handed out the word of order to 
make class-alliance against class interests for the sake of 
"Russia's future". And finally, he issued an unlimited 
declaration in favour of "internationalism, as long as it 
keeps to the borders of the Russian Federation". With 
Russians being more than 80%, he argued, such 
"Internationalism" was to be had at a reasonably cheap 
price. With his mind-set, socialisation and materially 



161 



motivated busyness-interests in big politics, I would not be 
sure to tell, if in Germany he would have still found a place 
on the right wing of the potentially crypto-Fascist Christian 
Alliance, CDU. He was definitely not the kind of person, I 
would personally want to spare from red terror once the 
time was ripe. 

As if suffering under a mental strain after this encounter, 
our oppositional gathering focussed its potential purely on 
participating in elections, now. We would set up a woman 
candidate and a monitor to be able to lobby for a more or 
less fair election process. When asked about a programme, 
our candidate issued the slogan of "free access to the fire- 
side for our peer-group (tusovka)". I was a bit disappointed 
but supported her, nevertheless. Then however, she and 
three of her friends would suddenly drop out of the game. 
They actually claimed to feel offended by an intervention 
from Larissa moderating the course of the action from 
within. To provide some stabilising impact, Larissa urged 
us all to behave loyally "until lunch". Lunch actually, would 
never come within the game, it was not on the agenda, just 
as a Communist party election victory. She was a brilliant 
player. To fix our minds on a trifle instead, she accused us 
of stealing the blowing horn to call for meals. She called 
our behaviour quite unfair and issued a call for more social 
responsibility at the campsite towars us. These 3 minutes 
were enough to deactivate what was left of a Left 
opposition in the game. The girls dispersed and took to 
sneer right until night, not eating anything that day actually. 

The night was unique, I can tell you. The fire was lighted in 
an unprecedented intensity, obviously the working-class 
had found an outlet in their anger, being abandoned by the 
left butterflies in retreat. They had been working like hell. 



162 



Asked why, they said, they had no free time to rally for 
rebellion but they would have positively reacted to anyone 
looking for them in the woods. And now we were burning 
the fruit of their labour to reflect the outcome of the day. 
In the end of the game, we had actually been witnessing the 
making of a perfect coup-d'etat by an orange mafia. They 
had accumulated incredible piles of money and were 
showing it with a breathtaking new-Russian sophistication, 
right in their press-conferences transmitted by local TV. 
You could see them operate with arbitrary imprisonment, 
not paying promised wages and organising support with 
hilarious corruption. And what was most irritating, we 
could not do anything to stop them. I really did feel 
transported from present Russia to bloody Ukraine towards 
the end. It was all hyper-real. Only one fifth of it was 
planned and intrigued by the moderation, the rest was just 
the combined social ability of all participants at work, 
including the leftish butterfly fraction out for a sneering 
stroll while a veritable neo-liberal putsch was taking over 
command and control of all resources around. There were 
three summaries of the day, which took my breath away: 
Sasha, Larissa and Aleksej. I could not make it out for sure. 
All of them were standing in the most inconvenient side of 
the fire, where the wind was blowing the smoke. Were they 
holding their improvises speeches in tears because of the 
smoke beating their eyes or was there more to it? Suddenly, 
I realised, that I was not the only one to shed tears in this 
camp. But my three colleagues were not getting passionate 
for an aborted dance. They were right at their heart of their 
year-long work in the movement. Why had we failed? Sasha 
said in almost perfect accordance with my own assessment, 
that there was no reason to sneer at our sneering left, it was 
the perfect representation of us all, failing to initiate a 
process of proletarian self-empowerment. Larissa all the 



163 



while kept on asking questions. Cutting questions. Personal 
questions. Relentless questions. My whits would have 
faltered as well under such an inquiry. Why are you in the 
Communist youth? What did you want here? Why did you 
come here? A girl gave in to the group pressure and 
admitted blushingly, that she had come just to have a rest. I 
later walked up to her and told her, that my motivation was 
pretty much the same plus some personal affection. But 
that should not prevent us to learn some useful political 
lessons on the way, should it? I doubt whether my sincerity 
helped her in any way. 

The last one was Aleksej to have his say, the Agronome 
colleague from behind the Ural. Hardly noticeable though, 
he, too, was sobbing. This was not a game any more. This 
was about the mere sense of our lives. I had painted a 
portrait of him just before, in the evening light. Now, I 
could investigate his expression with some experience 
already. He is a great agitator without knowing it. He is too 
humble to know it and that is perfectly o.k. He combines 
vivid emotion with the fruits of extensive reading in 
Marxism and theoretical reflection within daily political 
work. I decided to take advantage of the fact, that he 
belonged to my company in Larissa's tent. I was looking 
forward to a bright night of discussion. 



21. a theory of progress reconstructed 

There were endless memories and personal findings to be 
localised in a broader context lying side to side while Sasha 
and Larissa were already sleeping, were they really? Basically, 
I knew the theoretical position of Aleksey's Marxism- 
Leninism only from literature. Empirically, it can hardly be 
found in the movement's open debate in Western Europe. 



164 



I had been studying it for the last 1 8 years, though, starting 
after a school excursion to Jaroslav in the Soviet Union in 
1988 brought extensive literature into our provincial circles. 

I will not give a complete account of the night-long 
discussion we had, for it is by far not over yet. I know it to 
make a redefinition of my live's political struggles, failures 
and achievements necessary and this is one reason why I 
sat down for 8 consecutive days to write down this diary 
and could not do it in 4 hours as I had honestly planned it, 
even with a consecutive train to Tomsk in mind for the 
same day. 4 hours turned into 80 hours and I have but 
recorded some turbulences at the surface of my reflection 
and self- critique. Surely, the impact of Aleksej would have 
been less fruitful for my quest if I had not had three more 
days close to my friend V. in the following. Aleksej is of my 
age and has talked my line of study in the beginning of the 
1990s, just 3000 km east. V. was born in 1958 and has a 
sound and thorough political and personal socialisation 
within a Soviet Union that presented a real chance and a 
real threat. His assessment of proletarian dictatorship, 
theoretical tasks ahead, and central hermeneutical issues are 
more sound and more poignant with empiric disillusion 
than our grossly improvising reinvention after the 
devastation of Capitalist victories over the last 15 years. 
And there is Larissa, whom I trust to the twinkle of her 
eyes. I still cannot quite understand how she can possibly 
be that childish and serious in the meantime, so 
sophisticated and serene in treating one and the same task. 
Will they be able to break her? My hope, as the hope of 
many lies in Moscow. Not buried under glass in a red 
marble shrine but in our own doing next winter and in the 
years to come. 



165 



22. swimming off in 
more than tears 

It was painful for me to leave the camp with Larissa 
dissolving into tears under incessant, continuing rain. The 
ways through the woods were turning into the fifth, the 
Russian element on earth, which had driven Napoleon to 
the edge of his senses: mud, mud, mud. Yet, I was so glad 
to be close to her on a scale measurable in metres for those 
last hours. I would indeed not have a clue, what will 
happen to me once this connection was cut. 



23. rebeginning in Barnaul: fresco, 

Francesco, Ionesco 

I started to work on a fresco painting in V's Lower Altaj 
youth centre. It was to sum up the last fortnight and I 
worked to do it well with a fervour and intensity I had 
really started to miss in all this deconcentrating travelling 
activity, since the last fresco with Vlasta in the German 
Commune KoWa in June this year. 



24. hitch-hiking into most unexpected 

gardening 

Together with V., we had a hilarious period of research to 
collect material from memory, archives, museums and 
expositions, films and photographs, artist's shops and 
building-trade discounters in Barnaul. Within 36 hours, we 
got almost everything, wet lime, sand of different colours, 
excellent and simple fresco brushes right to the history of 



166 



communes in the region from the 1920s onward, faces 
from the revolutionary wars in Barnaul, a critique of the 
political economics of Soviet political police from local life 
experience and a view of Soviet industry in the scale of 
thousands of hectares damped to rubbles. How should I 
put it all together? I was increasingly getting worried 
collecting all these sketches and complex insights. 

There was actually only one trifle, we could not get at all: 
red pigment. In the end, we drove out on Saturday evening 
the slightly doubtful address of an artist, someone had 
given us out of commiseration. This proved to be the clue. 
V. and I happened to sneak into a party which had an 
unconcealed explosive erotism written on the foreheads of 
everybody welcoming us. For Russia, the social set was very 
unusual, formal couples, parting with new friendships in all 
directions. But somehow and very little inkeeping with the 
mode in which Russians including my Ukrainian 
acquaintance break private relations and parentship, this 
was somehow all holding together. All this was happening 
clearly on the edges of possible personal tolerance and yet 
the drive for transgression of any bourgeois norms had V. 
and me electrified within minutes. A woman, the widow of 
a plavcik who had drowned in the Altaj waters was dancing 
alone in the wild garden among a company preparing the 
banja. I joined her and we turned around and around until 
seeing nothing of the world any more but in our mutual 
glances. She delicately took to rubbing off the rests of 
building lime and sand on my cheeks while turning and 
turning with me, inquiring. "You think it so easy to get 
some lies from me and sleep with me this night and think it 
all to be perfect?" she asked as if singing the text to the 
tune we were dancing. "A friend of mine is having a night 
out today in the Carpathians, that's for sure, with a new and 



167 



quite superficial lover," I retorted. "How superficial?" We 
turned. "She would not be able to tell me." "That means 
she does not really love you?" "Possible." She searched 
with her eyes in my eyes. Suddenly, she had got me with a 
little sly, ringing laugh. "So you see it all fall." "I am falling 
myself, it is little fun." "Be calm," she said with the burden 
of a dead man having been her husband, "you will only 
grow from it." "How can I possibly grow, how can I 
possibly realise the Commune, when every friendship goes 
through my helpless fingers as if really restless to go down 
the drain?" "Be calm, your soul will only grow from it." We 
had ceased to dance now. We were in the far end of the 
wild garden, holding our hands fast. I have no experience 
with such kind of encounters, really, apart of stupid dreams. 
But this was neither a dream, nor was it stupid as far as I 
understood it. Maybe this was even a realisation to stop 
talking? "Do I have a soul?" I said naively as if she could 
tell. She twisted me back with analytical sharpness: "So, you 
are an atheist. How good to hear that. You have some 
experience then with coming to terms with what you 
cannot flee from." Nothing remained to be said. I felt 
perfectly understood. And in the same second, I unwillingly 
repeated a phrase to myself which I had unexpectedly 
written down in a schoolmistress' fit to end a letter to Olga 
in Moscow: "Remember that you do not built new society 
with romance. What we need is collective action to 
deconstruct patriarchy. Have a nice summer, yours" 

My companion in the garden was incredibly drunk and in 
the meantime behaving breathtakingly sly alongside, 
incredibly sure of herself, her words, her body, her 
movements. She chose to talk about the death of her lover, 
then. I heard it with horror. Having lived with a woman for 
a decade that had seen the early deaths of two of her 



168 



brothers, one of them a plavcik, I immediately sensed that 
her talking was not what she would talk in the years and 
some hundreds of occasions before. Forget about fresco 
painting tonight, if you really heed to this vicinity, I 
muttered to myself. And it was in this moment that I broke 
in, just for half a second. With a little sting of guilt, I 
thought about my comrade. I could not help it. Later he 
would try to help me in return, but it was all lost and gone. 
Why did I understand that so much earlier than him with 
roughly 13 years less experience? For the fraction of a 
second, I lost hold of her eyes and my eyes flared off to 
look into the other side of the garden to see whether my 
comrade was having quite such a thrilling time as me out 
here. I could not tell but I had some doubts. This was 
enough to kill off any further interest in me within her 
mind. She had opened up to tell me about her experience 
of closest death and I had not been able to hold her glance 
in the meantime. So inevitably, I had lost her confidence 
altogether. Our bodies were still intimate but her mind was 
gaining distance at a breathtaking speed. She took her girl- 
friend and my comrade in her arms and brought us three 
into V's car. A little boy was with us, the son of her girl- 
friend. I was sorry for him. Drunken parents relating 
strangely to strange people are not necessarily a comforting 
support when need be. We drove to her girl-friends home. 
My comrade readily bought them another bottle of vodka 
on request. I wouldn't have done that. In the widow's talk, 
there was now a solid hatred for her own drinking sticking 
out sharply against her ambition to have us buy more . . . 
and there was suddenly an explicit adjacent hatred for me 
as I registered from a distance. V. to the contrary, would be 
shocked. Quite pathetically, he resolved to throw in 
everything he had in store for me. Most interesting for my 
ears to hear though was that he advised her to stop talking 



169 



Russian with me. Already in the Ural, I had felt the intuitive 
sensation that my Russian was really a lousy failure, because 
I wanted more demanding a closeness and mutuality than 
sex. "Honestly," my comrade pleaded while I silently 
winced under his implicit verdict in the agony of acute 
language isolation, "try to speak to him in English for the 
rest of the night, you will see what he is really up to." This 
is unnecessary, I thought pleadingly. She hates me already, 
just as any Russian has the right to hate a German, and you 
make it worse with your advertisement. Actually, she did 
not speak a word of English either, just some juicy German 
swear-words, but that would not be sufficient to restore her 
confidence. "Don't tell me you have, let's say, a million." 
She now declaimed all cold. "Do you think I would do it 
for less? You two do not really look like busyness ones. 
Why should I socialise with you anyway?" V. underlined 
with a truly ridiculous honesty in his voice that he had not 
that bad a nice car if she would just bother to take a look 
and that we weren't actually underdressed for a garden 
party. I remembered that he had reminded me three times 
to make some effort and change my work-clothes with 
anything slightly worth to be shown around in Saturday 
night Barnaul. I smiled a tacit and previously unknown 
smile at this competition taking place between the two now. 
Was this still about me, really? It seemed as if they were 
summing up the main concerns of Russian middle classes 
over the last 15 years. Now, the ugly term middle class 
sounds a bit like the church bell back in the village of my 
parents. I did a little arithmetic and arrived just at a million, 
Roubles that is. Well, this week. Next week, if would 
already be a painful bit closer to the end. I had no income 
for a year now. I would have liked to bring the 
conversation to a collapse with something of the like. But 
in the end, I was not familiar enough with this sphere of 



170 



Russian society to be able to tell whether she had meant 
Roubles or US Dollars. And anyway, we had reached a 
dead point some time ago already and maybe even V. 
would have misunderstood my irony. 

Back in the garden, she inquired occasionally "can't you 
just piss off?" I had seen this coming from the moment, I 
had lost sight of her, worrying about my comrade to feel 
uneasy and unheeded to in the garden. Honestly, we felt a 
bit uneasy both now. Later he told me, still with some 
agitation in his voice. "Oh, this type of women! Impossible. 
You have to take them like that." The gesture he made then 
reminded me of how you catch a wild horse. I could not be 
less interested in such an acquisition. I preferred to say 
nothing. 

We got the red pigment and went, not without exchanging 
hot kisses with the donor, a brilliant artist, heading off for 
Tibet. I reckon, I will not forget her either. No. 

This garden was a miracle. It made you go through a 
decade in 20 minutes. It made you trust and not regret. It 
made you regret and trust yourself, my comrade, my 
colleague. If I lived in Barnaul, I would care very much for 
at least a little pie in this sky. There was just a tiny stint in 
the fabulous glasses, she fused and composed to precious 
interior designs. She obviously wanted to excuse the 
rudeness of her friend in kicking us out. "I have not 
actually invited them. She would confess to us 
unnecessarily "They always turn up by themselves." There 
was a pause. "Like metastasis," she added and smiled to us 
across this rather awkward metaphor sombrely and just a 
little uneasy, a little from underneath. With a pang of 
sudden speculative sadness, I realised that maybe she would 



171 



not see Tibet in this life any more, but I can be entirely 
mistaken. I noted that my comrade was taking down the 
contact details of my colleague, our benefactor, with 
remarkable care. But that, of course, was only to duly 
return a little plastic bag with some red pigment. She, 
however, would insist that we should just use it up or keep 
it. 



25. dictatorship of the proletariat vs, 

a collage of abilities 

Dictatorship of the proletariat is bull shit, really. Of course, 
the bourgeois grip on economic life has to be inversed. Of 
course, parliamentarism does provide no effective tool for 
dispossessing the dictatorship of Capital. But my dear V., 
could we really sneer at the expertise and unique abilities of 
her and him and the Young Communist pretending to have 
come three hours through the rain and mud for having a 
rest only? Dictatorship is rotten convention just as 
hierarchy is rotten convention. Let the grass yield on their 
ruins! Empowerment of the proletariat is essential, but that 
is a process you can neither buy with purchase power nor 
win over putting in place a command structure. All 
enhancements beyond participation would not get us any 
degree farther than another simulation. We know 
simulations of a Social Democrat and a Bolshevik making. 
We would now rather prefer the original in both cases, to 
be sure. New forms of proletarian public life, expression, 
control and self-management will be the water, in which 
empowerment, the jolly fish, will learn to swim, not the 
other way round. 



172 



We will not enter the same river which lead up to the 
failure of working-class emancipation in East and West 
once again. Maybe, we will investigate proletarian initiative 
and not oracle about it from a set of excerpts from 
bourgeois news-papers and theories about imperialism. We 
will try to form living and fighting collectives and not 
fighting and dying martyrs. We will not import industrial 
social models from the West any more, because the West 
has lost out to their suffocating productivity just the same 
by now. 

Hence, we will integrate production and reproduction, 
guerrilla and conciliation tactics, cultural invention and 
industrious creativity on a new level of escalation. We will 
scatter the carcasses of gender and carry sexual liberation to 
the point where fulfilment is not to be had in bed any more. 
We will desexualise colloquial language and sexualise 
socialism instead. We will try to paralyse the reflexes of 
classism inside of us and toil to become free of toil 
altogether. We will not be modest. We will not be 
restrained. We will not be consumers of our own dreams. 
We will become what nobody has ever been. We will taste 
what everybody has been capable to dream of. We will be 
the graveyard orchestra of capital relations dancing to their 
very last rhythms. 



26. sketches for a commune 

Looking at historical communes can be instructive. Some 
initial collective, e.g. four or five communards, always had 
to make a start: condense their aspirations, expectations, 
experiences, differences, dreams, fears and needs. Such a 
crystallising process is essential to any further growth of the 



173 



network. A workable result is only worth to be evolved in 
collective practice. It could be a crystallising collective, 
living it and putting it down (i.e. in written, in 
documentation and decision hardware as Kommune 
Niederkaufungen e.g. has developed and passed on to other 
communes). As with tomorrow's weather, there can be 
individual forecasts. You will not hang down your head 
because the forecast was somewhat misleading, will you? 
Instead, you are perfectly right to do so if the weather 
actually turns out to be nasty. So I try and risk a forecast. It 
is nothing more than individual finger training for a future 
walk on our hands. To enhance specific reactions, I 
associate the ideas with letters making them more easy to 
cite. 



A) Our commune serves the people, aspiring to get 
beyond capital relations. 

B) A shared economy is essential for developing 

revolutionary ferment. 

C) Only if all available individual capital is 

collectivised, there can be some hope for a 
sufficient fund to work with responding to the 
abilities present in the collective. 

D) Economically, communes were mostly a failure as 

long as capitalism (or NEP) subsisted. The future 
quality of communal life and work has to 
compensate for this tendency in time. 

E) Shared work and life are the result and basis of a 

common political struggle. 



174 



F) Latin America is as important a weak element in 

the chain of imperialism as the former Soviet 
Union. A wandering commune e.g., doing mainly 
analytical work to support class struggles in Latin 
America for some years could be more interesting 
than developing a farm on the Crimean Peninsula. 

G) Hierarchy is a waste of talents. 

H) Consensus decision making is the supreme tool for 

equal empowerment. But specific procedures have 
to be set up for treating vetoes adequately. 

I) Levelling economic possibilities is a primordial 

task. This means resigning from material benefits 
for most of us. 

J) The quality of life and work facilitated by the 

commune is to remunerate according to real 
material need. Therefore, collectively set up 
priorities distribute irrespective of the amount of 
individual sacrifices, voluntary workload and 
income generating initiative. 

K) The material realisation of women's liberation has 

to be always three steps ahead of any attempts at 
sexual liberation. 

L) Everybody should be able to do any task in the 

commune. 

M) Racism, Sexism, Classism, Ageism, Homophobia 

and any kind of violence inside of the commune, 
including structural and symbolic violence (anche 
gridare, also to raise your voice above the 

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necessary to make yourself acoustically 
understood) are not acceptable. Reproductive 
work and the assignment of unpopular tasks have 
to be counter-imposed to gender roles and 
genderised behaviour patterns. 

N) Affirmative action is a primordial principle when 

rebalancing gender biases, class background biases 
and accumulated potentials to realise hierarchies. 

O) Equal or affirmative distribution of reproductive 

tasks could be monitored minutely, i.e. to the very 
minute. 

P) Empirically, communes live on a politically 

acceptable deception: People enter them as a life 
engagement and in most cases their very stability 
in time depends on individuals drifting in and out. 

Q) Fluctuation is experienced as individual failure, 

nevertheless. The communal structure has to put 
aside resources to provide for relief. 

R) The most convincing way to deal with fluctuation 

in a shared economy is to make up individual exit 
contracts between single members and the 
commune as a whole (Kommune 
Niederkaufungen) . 

S) These contracts should at all costs be agreed on 

before splitting becomes an issue to resolve 
conflicts at all. 

T) Exit payment expectation by the commune should 

not be based on the concept of profit-sharing 

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(Zuverdienerlnnengemeinschaft, artel). Parallel to 
all decisions on consumption and investment 
inside the commune, exit payments will be based 
on a collectively shared assessment and 
prioritisation of material needs. 

U) With the Capitalist market providing easier work 

and better pay for men than for women, no exit 
contract for a man should envision a higher exit 
support sum than the lowest agreed on for a 
woman and there should be no lower for a 
woman than the highest fixed for a man. 

V) Ageism and Internism (snobbish attitudes based 

on the length of internship) are not helpful. 

W) Admission procedures for people joining the 

commune after crystallisation should be 
transparent, stick to clear rules and be subject to 
unbiased control. There is no reason for those 
who joined earlier to build up any sense of 
superiority. 

X) Even a guest for three days can make more serious 

and important a contribution than regulars. The 
common classist division between full members 
and guests is to be levelled without giving in to 
consumption patterns of the fast-food society. 

Y) Children get adopted by the commune as a whole. 

Biological parenthood is only an issue when 
dealing with the outside. Hierarchy in care and 
responsibility is to be analysed and understood as 
a deficiency in the working of the commune. 
Children can be expected to want to leave the 

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commune at first occasion. They should therefore 
be empowered to realise exit contracts on special 
terms and retain a special guest status. 

Z) The material integrity of the commune can be 

highly elastic if the social dynamic is empowered 
to support physical distance. The Gudut example 
shows that proletarian work and partisan activism 
can be combined with the concept of rural 
settlement as well as cosmopolitan participation in 
one single integrating shared economy (Palestine 
(1919) 1924 until 1927 when a part left for the 
Soviet Union). 

and) There is always something very important you 
forget to write down in the end. 



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